Rest Home Accused Of Abuse In Death Of Gadfly
Hector Reyna was Oakland’s prototype of a political gadfly
Starting in the 1960s, the rangy, chain-smoking man with a cowboy hat was a candidate in literally dozens of local elections. He ran for the city council, the boards of BART, the AC Transit bus system, and the East Bay Regional Parks, the California Senate, U.S. Congress, and against every mayor of Oakland for 25 years, from Lionel Wilson to Ron Dellums.
Reyna’s politics were difficult to pin down – perhaps he was a libertarian – and he never came close to winning. Still, there was something endearing about Reyna’s earnest manner, and about his battered Lincoln limo, perennially decorated with the poster he used for multiple campaigns: “Stop the Shocking Crime of Oakland!”
But records in Alameda County Superior Court show there was nothing funny about Reyna’s October 2008 death after a brief stay in a Hayward rest home. In a lawsuit filed on his family’s behalf, Oakland lawyer Felicia C. Curran complained that Reyna died from the complications of burns, bedsores and other afflictions caused by the “elder abuse” he allegedly suffered at Diana’s Care Home in Hayward and at nearby St. Rose Hospital.
Reyna was diagnosed with dementia when, at age 73, he was admitted to the rest home in May 2008. Although often confused and disoriented and unable to follow instructions, Reyna was quite mobile, and the rest home simply didn’t keep an eye on him, the suit says.
On his first day there, Reyna escaped, wound up on BART, fell down some stairs, and was hospitalized with a back injury, the suit says. On a dozen other occasions, Reyna’s escape was only discovered after he was located by neighbors, police, or Reyna’s daughter Marlene, whom Reyna sometimes called from a phone booth.
Reyna was just too much for them, the rest home’s director declared at one point, the suit says.
In August, Reyna got cigarettes and matches, and, unattended, went into the backyard for a smoke. Somehow he set his pants afire, the suit says. Another resident put out the fire with a garden hose. Reyna was hospitalized, but his leg burns never healed properly.
He developed bedsores, and he was injured in a series of falls, the suit says. Five months after he entered the rest home Reyna was dead.
The family says that by law the rest home has the duty to supervise patients with dementia to keep them from harming themselves. Their failure to look after Reyna amounted to “reckless” elder abuse, they claim. The rest home and the hospital haven’t yet responded to the lawsuit.