A District man who died after a struggle with police last Friday was supposed to be taken to a city mental health facility after attracting the attention of officials during a visit to the mayor’s community affairs office earlier in the day, according to authorities.
Anthony Chambers, 38, lost consciousness after a struggle in which officers used pepper spray and handcuffs to subdue him, police said. He was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead at 4:11 p.m.
Autopsy results are pending. Police officials declined to discuss the incident Thursday, citing an internal investigation.
Last Friday, four police officers went to an apartment building in the unit block of P Street SW after Department of Mental Health workers, already there, determined that Chambers needed to be taken to an emergency facility, city health officials said.
During a visit to the community affairs office that day, Chambers had behaved in ways “that were cause for concern,” the police incident report says. The police report does not detail his actions at the office.
Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Mayor Vincent Gray (D), said Chambers “exhibited signs that he needed assistance from mental health officials.”
Law enforcement sources said Chambers complained of having a chip implanted in his head.
The community affairs office called the Mental Health Department, McCoy said, and mental health officials met with Chambers at the office and arranged a visit to his home later in the day.
Department spokeswoman Phyllis Jones said mental health officials called police after going to Chambers’s home and determining that he needed to be “further evaluated at the department’s emergency psychiatric facility.”
The department routinely calls police for help taking people to the emergency facility, Jones said. “It was clear that he needed more assistance than we could provide at that location,” said Jones.
Jones declined to discuss details of the incident or Chambers’s mental health, citing privacy issues. She would not say whether the department had a relationship with him before last Friday.
When officers arrived at the apartment building about 3 p.m., the police report says, Chambers became “combative,” striking them in the face. All four received injuries that were not life-threatening, according to a police news release.
Chambers lost consciousness after he was subdued, police said, and his heart stopped while he was being taken to the hospital.
Members of Chambers’s family said they were not aware of his having a previous relationship with mental health officials. A sister, Valentina Chambers, said in an interview that he went to the community affairs office to seek help for asthma and muscle pain after attempts to call an ambulance for assistance were unsuccessful.
Valentina Chambers and other family members said that they were at the apartment when police arrived and that they saw only the officers, not mental health workers. She said that Anthony Chambers had not become combative and that the officers had been intimidated by him. The incident report describes him as at least 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing perhaps 300 pounds.
She said the incident has shaken her.
“I’m scared to death, you know, I don’t know what to do now,” said Valentina Chambers, who said her brother had a son and daughter.
“I’m going to miss him,” she said.
The four officers were placed on paid administrative leave pay after the incident, police said.