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Family has questions after man's death following Hillsborough jail stay

TAMPA — Alstin Greggory Guice went to jail last Thursday on a minor criminal charge. Five days later, following a scuffle with deputies, he was dead.

Much remained unclear Friday about what occurred before Guice, 42, died at Tampa General Hospital.

The Sheriff's Office has offered sparse details, saying only that Guice got into a fight with jail personnel who attempted a "medical intervention" and that he then went into "medical distress." A death investigation remains ongoing.

Guice's family has questions. They want to know what specifically happened in the moments before paramedics were called to the Falkenburg Road Jail. And they question what sheriff's officials have told them so far.

"We were never told any type of medical intervention was performed," said his sister, Celeste Guice.

An autopsy was conducted Wednesday, but a medical examiner has yet to determine an exact cause of death. An initial case summary report from the medical examiner's office notes that the cause is pending further study.

A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office declined to answer questions about Guice's death, citing the ongoing investigation.

An agency news release said this: Guice was arrested April 4 on a charge of violating an injunction. The next morning, he "initiated a confrontation" with jail deputies while trying to force his way out of his cell. He continued to be "combative and uncontrollable," sheriff's officials said, and "medical intervention was ordered in an attempt to calm him."

After that, Guice "appeared to be in medical distress," sheriff's officials said. Paramedics were called and he was taken to Tampa General Hospital. He died there Tuesday morning.

The family took several pictures of Guice as he lay in the hospital bed. The images, shared with the Tampa Bay Times, show medical tubes running out of his nose and mouth, which are marked with dried blood. An intravenous line runs down both his arms. Family members photographed what appear to be bruises on different parts of his body.

"I touched him on the hand and he was ice cold," said his sister, Celeasa Guice. "I felt like he was already deceased."

In the hours after they got word that Guice was in the hospital, the family said an unidentified sheriff's deputy informed them of what happened. The deputy explained that Guice did not want to attend what was supposed to be his first appearance in court that morning. He began to fight with the jail staff, the family was told. In the ensuing struggle, he bit one of the deputies.

Alstin Guice, 42, was diagnosed more than a decade ago with bipolar disorder, his family said. He had repeatedly been held involuntarily in psychiatric facilities under Florida's Baker Act.

The day of his most recent arrest, he had gone to his parents' home in the Highland Pines area of Tampa. His father had an active injunction against him due to a previous incident in which Guice had threatened to harm him. An argument began and police were called.

"The day the police picked him up, he said, 'I want to be Baker Acted,' " said his mother, Thelma Guice. "There was medication he was supposed to take because of his condition."

In the days after Guice was hospitalized, the family said they spoke with several high-ranking sheriff's officials. But they said they still have questions about what led to his death.

"My brother had the appearance of someone who had been pummeled to death," said his brother, Albert Guice Jr.

The medical examiner's case summary, which includes information provided by a sheriff's detective, states that Guice went into cardiac arrest. At the hospital, a breathing tube was placed in his throat.

A detective noted that there was visible soft tissue injury to Guice's lip. But the report also notes "no trauma observed."

Although doctors worked to keep his heart beating, Guice lay unconscious for four days. By Tuesday, his internal organs were failing, his family said. They decided to take him off life support.

"We feel he was dead when they brought him there," his mother said.

Times staff writers Anastasia Dawson contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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