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Man Dies After Deputies Use Pepper Spray in Scuffle

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 35-year-old Bellflower man died early Thursday about nine hours after he had been pepper-sprayed in a struggle with sheriff’s deputies while being booked for a narcotics violation at the Lakewood sheriff’s station, officers said.

A Sheriff’s Department statement said that lab results of a drug- screening test at the hospital where the man was taken for treatment were positive for amphetamines. The statement said that the fight with deputies caused bruises on the man’s knees and the right side of his face, but that further information on the exact cause of death will follow an autopsy.

The dead man was not identified, pending notification of next of kin.

The department’s report said the man was behaving irrationally when first apprehended about 6 p.m. on Artesia Boulevard, telling deputies that he believed someone was chasing him with a gun. No one else was in the area, deputies said.

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Deputies then learned the man was wanted on a warrant for illegal possession of a controlled substance and he was taken to the station for booking, where he “became combative, broke free from the deputies’ control and ran down the station hallway,” the report said.

The man was subdued by five deputies, but when he was pepper-sprayed, he initially showed no reaction, the report said. However, soon after being restrained, he began to exhibit difficulty breathing, it said.

An outside medical expert said that someone under the influence of amphetamines could be so hyped up that pepper spray, a substance that normally has a severe disabling effect, would have no immediate effect.

In addition to the autopsy, a departmental investigation is being conducted.

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