Man Dies in Police Custody After Disturbance at Motel : Van Nuys: He had been subdued with pepper spray and handcuffed, apparently after having swallowed rock cocaine, authorities say.


A man police officers subdued with pepper spray and hand and ankle restraints apparently died while in their custody Saturday, after he swallowed nuggets of rock cocaine, authorities said.

The 34-year-old man, whose name was withheld pending notification of relatives, died shortly after police responded to a 911 call in Van Nuys about 10 a.m., Los Angeles Police Officer Sharyn Michelson said.

Officers arrived at the El Cortez Motel in the 5700 block of Sepulveda Boulevard and were told that a couple were fighting inside one of the rooms, Michelson said. The officers ordered everyone out of the room, and a man and woman emerged, closing the door behind them.

The pair said another man who had swallowed “several pieces of rock cocaine” remained inside the room. Fearing for his safety, Michelson said, the officers entered the room with a pass key and found the man lying on the floor.


When the man resisted being handcuffed, police used cayenne pepper spray to momentarily disable him, Michelson said. Once outside the room, the man continued to struggle, so the officers placed “cord cuffs” around his ankles.

Michelson said it was unclear whether the cords were attached to the handcuffs in hogtie fashion.

The officers summoned paramedics but began to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation after the man suddenly stopped breathing, Michelson said. Paramedics took him to Valley Presbyterian Hospital, where he could not be revived.

The cause of death will be determined by an autopsy, said Michelson, who was uncertain whether any of the others who had been with the man were arrested.


An employee of the motel, which caters to both short- and long-term tenants, said the man had stayed there for the past four or five nights.