ELOY — A man died alone in a holding cell Thursday while in the custody of the Eloy Police Department, authorities said.

Javier Moreno, 24, of Eloy was arrested by Eloy police at 6:14 p.m. after he reportedly was seen breaking equipment at an area laundromat. He was arrested for criminal property damage and several outstanding warrants, a press release from Eloy Police said.

Police Chief Chris Vasquez said no force or weapons were used in taking Moreno into custody “other than the normal search of his person and cuffing.”

Upon arriving at the Eloy police station, Moreno was placed alone in a holding cell.

“When officers later returned to make contact with Mr. Moreno, they found him unresponsive in the cell with a makeshift ligature around his neck, taking his own life,” the press release said.

Lifesaving measures were performed by the EPD and Eloy Fire Department, but Moreno was pronounced dead.

In a message to PinalCentral Thursday morning, a friend of the Moreno family said those who knew the man are questioning the circumstances in which Moreno died.

“He was arrested and taken to the police station and suspiciously committed suicide,” the family friend wrote.

She said the family has received very little information about the situation.

“I don’t have any details about this because the police don’t want to say nothing,” she later wrote. “We need help.”

As of Friday afternoon, Moreno’s family had not been allowed to see the body, the friend said.

Moreno had a young son, girlfriend and six siblings. The friend said he was not suicidal.

“He was always a happy man,” the friend said.

By Friday afternoon, two fundraisers had been established for Moreno, who is referred to as “Javier Moreno Sosa” in social media posts.

One fundraiser for funeral expenses, created on Facebook by Tamara Moreno, included a statement that Moreno was found dead in the cell around 8 p.m.

“His mother was not told until 3 a.m.,” she wrote. “Eloy police department are calling it a suicide. We, his family, believe otherwise until it’s proven.”

Another fundraiser, created by Brisa Lima, included “there are no words to explain our pain and how we are feeling right now. With still no explanations from Eloy officers about what happened during that time and how our loved Javier was declared dead.”

Investigators with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office are looking into the case.

“As is common practice with an in-custody death, detectives from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office responded at EPD’s request to conduct an independent investigation,” the press release said.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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