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Erie County Holding Center inmate dies after week in coma at Buffalo General, family says

Christine Riordan told 2 On Your Side that her son, Sean Riordan was taken off life support Tuesday after family and friends celebrated his 30th birthday.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — An Erie County Holding Center inmate who spent a week in a coma at Buffalo General Hospital after a 'medical episode' has died, according to his family.

Christine Riordan told 2 On Your Side that her son, Sean Riordan was taken off life support Tuesday after being declared brain dead days earlier. June 14 was also his 30th birthday.

"We all believed a miracle could happen but it didn't happen for Sean this time," said Christine Riordan.

Tracie Riordan, Sean's sister, his niece Taylor Gregoric and other friends and family spent his final birthday by his side at Buffalo General, not knowing what exactly put Sean in the hospital. They made t-shirts with his face on them with the phrase #JusticeForSean.

Christine Riordan, Sean's mother said the last time she spoke to her son was on Saturday, June 4. Sean was in the holding center after being stopped for a traffic violation on June 1 but was held on an outstanding warrant she said. She did not know what the warrant was for. UPDATE: The Amherst Police Department confirmed the existence of a warrant Wednesday morning.

When they spoke Christine said Sean sounded out of sorts and had a gravelly voice. Although her son reassured her that he would be alright Christine said she knew something was wrong.

Two days after hearing from her son, Christine said the Erie County Sheriff's Office, which runs the holding center, told her that her son had suffered a 'medical episode,' and went into cardiac arrest. She was told that Sean was revived but then fell into a coma at Buffalo General Hospital. Christine said the detective she spoke to also said her son had alcohol in his system at the time of the 'episode' but asserted that her son hated drinking.

"We just want the truth," Christine Riordan said.

Taylor Gregoric spoke about her uncle's previous struggles with heroin addiction but said that to her knowledge Sean had started on a better path.

"Sean and I talked about if this ever happened but never like this kind of death. We thought it would be from drugs or something like that but I never thought that my uncle would be murdered," Gregoric said.

Attorney Marc Panepinto, of the law firm Dolce Panepinto, is representing the Riordan family and said they will be seeking legal action against those deemed responsible for Sean's death.

Christine Riordan shared a photo taken on Saturday, June 11 of her son with a bruised eye and a cut below his right brow.

"He had a lot of other bruising on his body, but we don't know where that came from," she said.

Sheriff John Garcia pledged when he was elected to office that he would improve the Erie County Holding Center, which under his predecessor, Sheriff Tim Howard, was cited on several occasions for inmate deaths and ranked among the worst jails in New York State. Sean Riordan's death would be the first to occur since Sheriff Garcia took over.

"We have no idea what happened but it is not a normal occurrence for a healthy 29-year-old to go into the Erie County Holding Center, especially with the Erie County Holding Center's track record, and then come out in a coma four days later," Panepinto said.

He said letters of preservation have been sent to the Sheriff's Office and Buffalo General Hospital asking for any potential evidence to be retained.

The Erie County Sheriff's Office did not respond to requests from 2 On Your Side Tuesday but told The Buffalo News over the weekend that Riordan's death had been referred to the New York State Commission of Corrections (SCOC).

UPDATE: A spokesperson for SCOC confirmed that the Sheriff's Office reported the incident to them on June 6.

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