Police: Inmate death was handled by the book

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Following the death of one of their inmates, Town of Tonawanda police are opening up and releasing all the details surrounding the death.

Peggy Gaiser, 59, died while in police custody early Thursday morning, but police with the Town of Tonawanda Police Department say there is nothing that they could have done differently.

Gaiser was originally arrested after police responded to the scene of a two-car accident on Elmwood Avenue at Sheridan Drive on Wednesday night. The officer who responded — who Town of Tonawanda Police Captain Joseph Carosi says was a drug recognition expert — suspected Gaiser of being under the influence.

An investigation at the scene led to a battery of tests by the officer, and he arrested Gaiser on the suspicion that she rear ended another driver because she was driving under the influence of drugs.

When police transported Gaiser to their barracks, they say their medics, which are on the scene at all times, tested her blood and gave her a medical evaluation — including a test for suicide. They found she was fit to stay in a cell overnight, Carosi said.

RELATED | Woman dies while in police custody. 

“Although intoxicated, she was impaired, but certainly nothing that is not inconsistent with the hundreds of people we arrest every year,” he said.

The following events were normal and by the book, according to Carosi. He says they brought in a female monitor to watch over the female prisoner and brought her to a cell to spend the night.

Only eight feet from Gaiser’s cell, Carosi says the monitor noticed a change in the sounds of snoring coming from the cell. Carosi said the monitor walked over to check on Gaiser after she stopped snoring loudly in her cell. jail cell

After several attempts to wake Gaiser, the monitor called for paramedics and assistance at about 1:25 a.m. First responders, which were stationed in the building, rushed to the jail cell and learned Gaiser wasn’t breathing. Carosi says they attempted to revive her while waiting on an ambulance crew, which would eventually rush her to Kenmore Mercy Hospital.

“At about 2:15 a.m. she was pronounced dead by the medical personnel at Kenmore Mercy Hospital,” Carosi said.

Attempts to revive her weren’t successful, and Carosi says they launched a full investigation into what led to her death, but their leads are thin.

“Prior to being placed in the jail cell, when we were evaluating her and going through her property, it was found that she had seven pills which we believed to be morphine in her purse,” he said. “Those were taken as evidence and she was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance.”

Now police are waiting on results from a toxicology test. Police say the results of an autopsy didn’t give much information as to why she died.

Carosi says in his 25-year career with the Town of Tonawanda Police force, no inmate has died. He says the death came as a surprise.

“It’s a most unfortunate circumstance that happened here,” he said. “From what we’ve seen everything was done as best it could be done that night.”

An investigation is continuing.

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