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Lawyer trapped, forgotten inside San Diego-area jail

A North County lawyer is furious after being trapped and forgotten inside a local jail for hours.

Attorney Erubey Lopez spoke to NBC 7 about the ordeal for the first time Friday.

Lopez said it all began when he was trying to visit a client in jail on Tuesday. He went into a visiting room -- not knowing he would be trapped in there for hours.

Patiently waiting inside a locked visiting room, Lopez said he didn’t think anything unusual until a half hour passed and his client still hadn’t been brought down to him.

“I know it takes a while to get the people, so I’m patient,” said Lopez while recalling the ordeal. “I don’t have my cellphone with me because the policy is you can’t use a cellphone inside the jail.”

At that point, Lopez said he tried to contact the guards through an intercom system inside the visiting room.

“So, I press the intercom button and nothing. I press it again,  and it doesn’t work,” he explained.

A half-hour soon turns into an hour.

"At that time, I'm really mad, and I'm thinking, ‘How can they forget about me?’ So, I start hitting the door really loud to get someone to let me out."

Two hours go by. All the while, Lopez is screaming while pounding on the door.

He finally accepts the strong possibility that he'll be sleeping on the cold concrete floor.

"I have a sweater and a jacket, and I take off my sweater and I try to use it as a pillow," he said.

Lopez thinks about Daniel Chong, a UCSD student who was left inside a Kearny Mesa holding cell last April after being forgotten by DEA officers for five days. Chong would eventually file a claim asking for $20 million following the incident, which he called “life-altering.”

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“I can't imagine how you could last that long without going crazy," said Lopez.

Finally, after four long hours, Lopez said a guard heard him and freed him.

Lopez, who’s also a Vista Parks and Rec commissioner, said a sheriff’s official called him and apologized following the incident.

But the attorney is concerned about safety inside San Diego jails, saying a colleague later told him that the intercom he had used inside the visiting room had been broken for eight months.

“[What] if I was unhealthy … had a heart attack? What if I had diabetes and had a sugar issue?” he pondered. “If they hadn’t heard me with the screaming and banging … there was no other way they were going to hear me.”

At this point, Lopez said he’s not sure if he plans to file a lawsuit.