On January 15, 2022, Daniel Adrián Barajas, 38, was fatally struck by three vehicles on an Arkansas highway shortly after police stopped him.

According to reports, Daniel was sleeping in his car, parked on an on-ramp when at around 4:35 a.m., Saline County sheriff’s deputies woke him up. The officers questioned him, stating he seemed to be hallucinating and appeared disoriented, as per deputies’ reports.

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The officers had Daniel checked by medical personnel and checked his car with a K9 unit. However, despite finding nothing, he could not get back in his car and deputies kept his keys.

By 6:00 a.m., a Saline County Coroner pronounced him dead after walking into the I-30 highway, Arkansas Department of Public Safety reports.

The tragic incident left Daniel’s family seeking answers. Instead of celebrating his 40th birthday on August 3, Civil rights attorney Mike Laux, representing the Barajas family, filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Saline County sheriff’s deputies and officials from the County Coroner’s Office.

The lawsuit, filed in a district court in New Mexico, where he lived, alleges racial discrimination, excessive force and civil rights violations.

In an interview with NBC News, the deceased’s sisters, Raquel and Xexilia Barajas, expressed their wish for answers: “We want closure. We miss him very much.”

Daniel Adrián Barajas tragically lost his life while en route to meet his two sisters’ newborns

The victim was a self-employed welding specialist from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He traveled consistently because of his job . On January 15, 2022, he drove from Arkansas to Dallas, Texas to visit his two sisters and their newborn babies.

According to the lawsuit, Saline County deputies woke him up on Interstate-30 while he slept inside his car. They claimed he was incoherent, shaking and possibly suicidal.

Consequently, they brought a K9 unit to smell his car and an emergency medical team to check him. According to the lawsuit, nothing came back from the search and background check. EMTs medically cleared him. 

However, deputies took possession of his car keys instead of letting him go and continuing his trip. His phone, wallet and a metal cash box he had for work also went missing that morning.

Authorities determined Barajas’s death as a suicide — his family claims targeting for being Latino

A week after of the incident, the coroner’s office signed the official death certificate. Per the lawsuit, his death was ruled a suicide, the cause being “blunt force trauma”.

In contrast, the lawsuit alleges that deputies “used excessive force,” leaving “him physically injured, dazed and confused”. They said this caused him to be “disoriented and staggered onto I-30,” where two cars and a semi-truck fatally hit him around 6:00 a.m.

“He was never mentally ill, he’s never talked about suicide, he’s never been in a mental institution, and for the medical examiner specifically, for him to say this is suicide is disgusting,” Xexilia told KRQE news.

After the tragedy, she said an officer told her that her brother was a drug dealer, even though he had no criminal record. The family and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) believe they targeted Barajas because of his color.

The lawsuit claims the coroner’s report on Baraja’s death was incomplete, lacking photos of the crash and his body.

Moreover, they allege that investigators from the Arkansas State Police neglected to preserve any radio call recordings.

Laux added they believe someone labeled Daniel’s death as a suicide, making it more challenging for the family to get answers. “We suspect that there are a lot of people involved with this.”

The communications director for the Arkansas Department of Public Safety and the Arkansas State Police, Cindy Murphy, told NBC News that they do not possess any additional information beyond what they already provided. Adding the department refrains from commenting on ongoing litigation.