The New York Police Department said it is under investigation for a second restraint-related death, this one involving a drugged, emotionally disturbed man four days before a fatal videotaped chokehold that fueled community outcry and led the department to overhaul its use-of-force training.
The police department said late Friday it is cooperating with the Manhattan district attorney's office, which is leading the investigation into Ronald Singleton's death, a police spokesman said. The district attorney's office did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The medical examiner's office cited “physical restrain by police” as a factor in the July 13 death of Singleton, who went into cardiac arrest in an ambulance and died on the way to a hospital. His death was ruled a homicide.
Police said Singleton became irate and combative while riding in a taxi cab around midnight and fought with an officer on foot patrol after exiting near St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Emergency services officers, called in by the patrolling officer, restrained Singleton and placed him in a protective body wrap, police said.
The medical examiner's office said the 45-year-old Singleton was in a state of excited delirium related to severe intoxication from the hallucinogenic drug called PCP or angel dust. It cited heart disease exacerbated by high blood pressure and thickened arteries, as well as obesity, as contributing factors in his death.
Singleton was to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at a hospital under the police department's protocol for emotionally disturbed people, police said, but the ambulance rerouted to a closer hospital when he went into cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead on arrival.
Police did not immediately respond to questions Friday about the status of the officers involved in Singleton's restraint. A spokesman for the city's largest police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn., did not immediately respond to a message.
Singleton's death drew little attention at the time. But Friday's homicide ruling thrust it into the category of police-related deaths under scrutiny after the July 17 chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island and the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Garner, a 43-year-old father of six who had asthma, could be heard on an amateur video shouting “I can't breathe!” as an officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. The officer was stripped of his gun and badge after Garner's death.
The Staten Island district attorney is assembling a special grand jury next month to hear evidence in the case.
Police in Ferguson have said the 18-year-old Brown physically assaulted a police officer, identified as Darren Wilson, who had stopped Brown and another man. But several witnesses have said Brown was shot when his hands were up.
Brown's death spurred weeks of unrest in Ferguson, and federal authorities are investigating. A St. Louis County grand jury is hearing evidence in the case.