Family continues fight for justice years after Madill man's death

Published: May. 8, 2020 at 11:19 PM CDT
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Almost ten years after the death of a 34-year-old man at the hands of law enforcement in a Marshall county hospital, his family is still fighting for justice. They say a federal law is unfair because it gives peace officers a level of immunity when responding to calls.

"Johnny was a good person. Everybody here in Madill knew him. He'd never hurt anybody," said Erma Aldaba, who lost her son 9 years ago.

Johnny Leija was just 34-years-old when he died.

"I don't want this to happen to anybody anymore what these cops did wrong, the hospital did wrong," said Aldaba.

Aldaba said Leija was in a Madill hospital with pneumonia. He was combative with doctors, wanting to go home. When police were called to help restrain him, Leija was struck by a taser and died.

"The night before he had texted me and the last text message I had from him was 'I love you sister'," said his younger sister, Angie Leija.

"He was messed up with some kind of medication cause he had pneumonia, and you know he just wanted to go home," said Aldaba.

His family says their lives will never be the same.

"Well the day he died and everything, I got sick, real sick, depressed. Now I got a pacemaker, but I know one day I'll be with him. I bought my cemetery right here I'll be right here next to him," said Aldaba.

Aldaba fought for years for her son to see justice, but the courts ruled in favor of the officers thanks to a legal doctrine designed to protect government employees.

Marshall County Sheriff, Danny Cryer, wasn't sheriff at the time, but says the officers went in with the mindset to stop him before he hurts himself or someone else. Given the circumstances, Cryer feels the officers did everything they felt necessary at the time.

"My condolences go out to the family, and I wish it had never happened, but I still think it's a case that should have been heard by the Supreme Court to give us some clarity on how far we can go to protect people," said Cryer.

For now, his family continues to fight in his name.

"I have to be his voice, and if it was to save anybody else, any other family to go through the pain that we went through, of course. And at the same time my brother's name will live on forever," said Leija.