GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County man is questioning how his son, who was involuntarily committed to psychiatric care a year ago after a suicide attempt, was able to hang himself in the Kent County jail.
Gabino Balderas Jr., 26, of Kent City, died in the hospital on Friday after the family donated his organs.
Kent County Correctional Facility guards found his son unresponsive in a shower on May 27, two months after his arrest. His father wonders why guards weren’t keeping a closer eye on his son, especially considering his attempted suicide last year.
“Por que?'” Gabino Balderas Sr. said. “Why? I want some answers.”
Balderas, who speaks broken English, spoke to Target 8 through an interpreter.
“They should have like kept an eye on him with cameras or like 24 hours, you know,” he said.
Kent County sheriff’s deputies arrested his son on April 2 after he choked his mother with a rope until she lost consciousness at the home they shared in Kent City, court records show. A roommate stopped the attack. Balderas was locked up on a $500,000 bond on charges of assault and aggravated domestic violence, and was ordered to stand trial.
His father said he had suffered with depression for several years since a breakup with his wife kept him from his two young daughters.
Kent County Probate Court records show a judge ordered him involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for 60 days in May 2022. A doctor diagnosed him with “major depressive disorder” after Balderas had slit his wrists in an attempt to “end it all,” court records show.
But after his recent arrest, the Kent County jail did not place him on suicide watch, instead holding him in general population, said sheriff’s Capt. Joel Roon. Roon told Target 8 he can’t speak about Balderas’ treatment due to privacy laws or say whether the jail was aware of the previous attempt. But he said the jail has programs to treat mental health issues.
“When making this determination if an inmate requires a mental health alert, both historical and present information about the inmate is used,” he wrote in a text message to Target 8. “Should an inmate be experiencing a mental health crisis, they are assigned a mental health alert and steps are taken to ensure they are safe from harming themselves. These steps include counseling, medication, restricting the inmate’s access to certain items, restricting privileges, increased monitoring by our staff and if there is an acute threat, an inmate’s movements are restricted. Due to the restrictions, when an inmate’s current mental health condition improves, their privileges are restored. This step down approach is monitored by the facility’s psychiatrist and mental health professionals and is also critical to help the inmate’s mental health state improve.”
Roon said guards found Balderas unresponsive in a dayroom shower. The captain said guards and jail medical staff tried to revive him before an ambulance rushed him to Trinity Health St. Mary’s Hospital.
“He hang himself in the bathroom,” Balderas’ father said through the interpreter.
“He said the hospital tell him that it looks like he spent a lot of time hanging,” the interpreter said. “He wants to know what happened that day, how come they weren’t keeping an eye on him and why he spent a lot of time hanging.”
Roon said the detective division is investigating and hasn’t found any signs of foul play.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached anytime at 988.