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While his cause of death remains unknown, colleagues and friends of the late Yale assistant professor Samuel See are mobilizing in his honor.
A public demonstration scheduled for this Tuesday will protest actions taken by New Haven Police officers surrounding — and allegedly involved in precipitating — See’s death roughly two weeks ago. A Saturday email forwarded to members of the Yale faculty by Christopher Miller ’83, professor of French and African-American studies, asked concerned members of the University community to attend a march beginning at 12 p.m. in front of New Haven City Hall.
The march will proceed through campus, through the downtown neighborhood and end at NHPD headquarters at 1 Union Avenue, where See was found dead on Nov. 24. He had been detained following a domestic dispute the previous afternoon with his husband, Sunder Ganglani.
“A death in jail is a political death,” wrote the organizer of the march, Nathan Brown, an assistant professor of English at the University of California, Davis. “This is especially the case when it is the death of a gay man, given the structural and historical homophobia of policing, incarceration, and the legal system in the United States.
Brown said the protest will raise questions not only about the handling of See’s arrest and incarceration but also about the validity of the information the NHPD has released on the subject. Though See’s cause of death is unknown — and will likely remain so at least until the chief state medical examiner’s office concludes its toxicology report — Brown said the “carelessness and … violence of the police response certainly exacerbated those causes and contributed to his death.”
Though See and Ganglani had mutual protective orders against one another, Ganglani had returned to See’s Wooster Square home on Nov. 23 to retrieve some belongings. When police, called in by See’s sister, verified the protective orders, they moved to arrest and charge both men. See allegedly resisted arrest, according to press statements from the NHPD, and fell and cut his eye in the process. He was treated for the injury at Yale-New Haven Hospital that evening and then placed in police lock-up, charged with violating a protective order, interfering with police and threatening in the second degree. He was found dead in his cell at 6 a.m. the next morning, Nov. 24.
In a press release last week, NHPD Chief Dean Esserman said he had ordered an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding See’s death in addition to the probe being conducted by the department’s Investigative Services Unit. Both investigations will include a full review of video from the detention center, which is administered by the state Judicial Branch, and interviews with all officers and state Marshals involved.
Given initial police “negligence,” Brown said, considerable doubts remain about the effectiveness of these investigations. He further queried the intentions of the NHPD by noting that news of See’s death was not released until three days after he was found unresponsive in his jail cell. Esserman apologized for the “late reporting” in his statement, calling it deviation from standard procedure.
Brown and See were Ph.D students together at University of California, Los Angeles. Reached Sunday, Brown said a few of See’s friends from the west coast will be attending Tuesday’s march. He said his message has also been circulating within the Yale community and through academic networks across the east coast since he first announced plans for the protest last week.
Correction: Dec. 8
A previous version of this post mistakenly attributed the authorship of the Saturday email to Christopher Miller ’83. In fact, Miller had forwarded this email to a group of Yale faculty.