San Diego

Man Suspected of Drug Use Dies After Struggle With Deputies at Hobby Lobby

Kristopher Michael Birtcher, 34, was pronounced dead at the hospital, approximately 45 minutes after deputies first responded to the scene

Homicide detectives are investigating the death of a man who was confronted by San Diego County sheriff's deputies at a Hobby Lobby in San Marcos. 

The incident began around 3:44 p.m. Saturday at the Hobby Lobby located at 553 Grand Avenue. 

Deputies responded to a 911 caller about a male in the lobby of the business, staggering and appearing disoriented. The caller said he appeared to be under the influence of drugs, Lieutenant Rich Williams said. 

The man was identified Wednesday as 34-year-old Kristopher Michael Birtcher.

Deputies responded to the scene with a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team clinician four minutes later and contacted Birtcher, Williams said. 

When the deputy and PERT clinician tried to evaluate Birtcher, he became uncooperative, Williams said. Deputies requested further assistance. 

He continued to resist attempts to detain him, and a struggle ensued. He attempted to flee the scene, Williams said. 

Two bystanders stepped in to help deputies control Birtcher, Williams said. 

In trying to gain control of the situation, a deputy deployed a department-issued stun gun. 

"Even civilians were assisting the deputies in an attempt to take the individual into custody," law enforcement policy adviser, Ed Obayashi, told NBC 7. "That strongly indicates to me that not only was the suspect violent, but the officers were having a hard time controlling the suspect themselves."

Birtcher was eventually detained. Williams said deputies used maximum restraints to restrict his movement. 

San Marcos Fire Department firefighters responded to the scene to evaluate the man, who was violently struggling with deputies and spitting at them.

Deputies believed he was under the influence of drugs and gave him Naloxone to treat what they believed was a drug overdose. 

Firefighters prepared to take him to the hospital. 

During the transport to the hospital, Birtcher's condition worsened. 

When he arrived at the hospital, he was in medical distress, Williams said. 

Birtcher was pronounced dead at a local hospital emergency room at 4:32 p.m. 

Sheriff's homicide detectives are investigating. 

The cause of death has not been released.

The deputies involved in the incident were Deputies Drew Beatty, Adrian Carrillo, Roland Garza, Joseph Kodadek, John Robledo, Scott Rossall, Frank Stalzer and Scott Winter. The deputies are all assigned to the San Marcos patrol station.

No further information was available. 

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Homicide Detail at (858) 974-2321/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can also remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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