BUFFALO, N.Y. – The family of an inmate who died after being held at the Erie County Holding Center has filed a notice of claim against Erie County — it’s the first step before filing a lawsuit.

Last summer, Sean Riordan had been arrested on an outstanding bench warrant for numerous traffic violations and was taken to the Erie County Holding Center. Days later, he was admitted to Buffalo General in a coma and on life support.

Riodan’s family looks to hold Erie County and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office liable for Riordan’s death.

Riordan’s mother, Christine says her son had a history of heroin abuse.

Last year, she told us the sheriff’s office told the family that Riordan collapsed, went into cardiac arrest, and was revived, but later went into cardiac arrest again at Buffalo General. He was eventually taken off of life support on his 30th birthday.

The notice of claim accuses the sheriff’s office of failing to respond to Riordan’s medical needs and conduct welfare checks. For years, many community organizations have been calling for change in Erie County jails.

Karima Amin, the executive director of Prisoners Are People, says: “Human beings need to be treated like human beings and if that costs money, money needs to be expended for that purpose. And unfortunately, there have been far too many deaths and far too many lawsuits.”

She adds: “Things have not improved even with the admission of our new sheriff, Sheriff [John] Garcia, things just haven’t changed. People are still being mistreated, cameras that we had hoped for be put in sensitive places have not been put there.”

The sheriff’s office has been requesting more money for more jail deputies and more medical personnel to respond to the medical needs of inmates.

The county attorney’s office says it has no comment on this legal action. The notice of claim indicates the Riordan family is seeking damages.

In a message on Twitter, Christine Riordan wrote, “There’s a lot more to this story and I will leave no stone unturned to find out the truth about what happened to my son and the 32 others before him and the one who died 5 months after my son. This is too many deaths! Inmates are people too! The medical examiner that performed the autopsy on my son, Sean Riordan, faulted the Erie County Holding Center for not giving my son, the medical attention that he needed and deserved. She basically threw the Erie County Holding Center under the bus for negligence
just go on YouTube and watch the video of the inmate at the Erie County Holding Center screaming while he’s being kicked in the head while on the floor handcuffed. This is as recent as 30 days ago.”

Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.