The man who stopped breathing during an arrest by District police two weeks ago died because he had been using cocaine and not because of excessive use of force by the officers, D.C. Medical Examiner Jonathan L. Arden said yesterday.
Alvin Maurice Headspeth, 43, of no fixed address, died Dec. 12 after a struggle in which a District police officer struck him with a metal baton. Police first approached Headspeth because he refused to drop a bicycle lock that he had been banging against his mother's apartment door.
The cause of death was attributed to agitated delirium that was due to acute cocaine intoxication, Arden said.
"He did have some superficial injuries, but he did not have any fatal injuries that caused or contributed to his death," Arden said. "Cocaine taken into your system can alter your heart and brain, and that's what happened here."
Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer said the results of the autopsy back up what 3rd District police officer Lawrence Heinz, 29, and Sgt. Antione Collins, 41, told the department's Force Investigation Team.
The officers were not placed on administrative leave, and Gainer said the case is now closed.
"It's not a time for cheers or tears. He died at his own hand," Gainer said. "But our officers didn't use lethal force here."
Police said Headspeth was behaving in a "violent, irrational manner" when they arrived at an apartment building in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of Northwest Washington shortly before 3 a.m.
But family members, who called police initially, accused police of excessive force and recently said they had never known Headspeth to use drugs.
Use of force by police has been an ongoing issue in the District's 3,500-member department.
Chief Charles H. Ramsey requested a Justice Department investigation and changed the department's procedures for investigating shootings after The Washington Post reported that D.C. police officers had shot and killed more people per capita during the past 10 years than any other major city's police department.
The number of police shootings this year has declined, Ramsey said.
Through November, 11 people were injured by police--four of them fatally--compared with 32 during the same period in 1998.