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Death of Indian due to hunger strike a tragedy: US police

February 03, 2012 15:49 IST
Indian national Lyvita Gomes's death due to hunger strike against her "unjustified detention" in a Chicago prison last month is a "tragedy", the United States police has said, as it ordered a review of the policies related to self-starvation.

"We recognise Gomes death is a tragedy; a tragedy felt in equal measure by everyone who had contact with her during her incarceration," Lake County, Illinois, Sheriff Mark Curran, said on Thursday as he released a detailed blow-by-blow account of 52-year-old Gomes's self-starvation, which resulted in her death.

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Gomes, a former airline trainer for Delta Airlines died on January 3, after 15 days of hunger strike to which she underwent in protest against what she said was her "unjustified detention". She was arrested by the local police authorities on December 12, 2011 after she did not respond to jury summons by a local court, which then issued an arrest warrant for her to come and explain why she did not turn up.

As a foreign national she was ineligible for jury duty so she ignored the jury summons. Gomes was charged with one count of resisting arrest during the encounter with Deputy Dunn. The same day she was put on suicide watch. A few days later she went on hunger strike in protest, which was ultimately responsible for her death, according to reports.

"All policies concerning self-starvation cases are being reviewed in an attempt to insure that we are doing everything humanly possible to prevent an outcome such as this," the Sherriff's office said in a press statement. It claimed that the sheriff's office attempted contact with Ms Gomes' family, corresponded with a family friend, met with religious and community activist groups and responded to every media request for information on this case.

Gomes who passed away while in the care of Vista east Hospital has created outrage in the Indian-American community and the family members who have questioned the circumstances of her arrest and care while incarcerated in mid-December, when it became apparent that she had stopped eating and drinking.

The sheriff's statement came a day after her funeral in Chicago in which hundreds of Indian Americans turned up. Gomes grew up in a suburb of Mumbai, and her brother had described her as optimistic, helpful and high achieving. She studied biochemistry and education in college, wrote a Math textbook and took a job as a Pan Am flight attendant in 1986.

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