San Diego

Police ID Man Who Died After 911 Calls for Erratic Behavior in Middletown

The Medical Examiner is conducting a toxicology report to determine if the man was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of his death

Homicide Investigation in Downtown
NBC 7/ Allison Ash

Authorities have identified a man who was pronounced dead after being handcuffed by police due to his erratic behavior in the Middletown neighborhood of San Diego last week.

Several people called 911 on the afternoon of Aug. 2 to report a man, identified on Monday by San Diego police as 35-year-old Donell Henderson, was jumping on top of cars and vandalizing at least one in the area of Sassafras and Columbia streets.

NBC 7's Allison Ash has the latest details on the death of a man near Downtown San Diego.

Police said officers arrived to find Henderson in just a shirt and socks lying down in the street. He had taken off the rest of his clothes before they arrived, according to witnesses.

While Henderson was lying down, officers approached him and handcuffed him "due to his reported erratic behavior," SDPD said. After doing so, officers checked his condition and determined he was in medical distress.

Officers removed his handcuffs and started performing CPR, assisted by a witness who identified themselves as a medical doctor.

But Henderson did not recover. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

NBC 7 spoke with Amy Blackhurst, a nurse of 20 years, who witnessed the incident in front of her house on Sassafras Street.

“It was obvious he was on some kind of medication, drugs, or something,” Blackhurst said that day. "He was just physically agitated, rolling around in the road. Then he jumped on the black car (a Nissan Altima) up here, and started rolling around in the black car, kicked it, broke the windshield.”

She told officers when they arrived that Henderson was already down on his stomach, but it appeared as if he was on drugs.

NBC 7's Allison Ash has the latest details on the death of the man.

“I said, 'Please be careful when you approach him, he’s on something.' And when somebody is on drugs, certain drugs, they’re very, very strong,” Blackhurst said.

Blackhurst praised how the officers responded to the incident with "absolute professionalism" and "absolute compassion."

SDPD initially called homicide detectives to the scene to investigate the incident as an in-custody death because there were officers present at the scene, SDPD Lt. Andra Brown said.

But it was ultimately not considered a homicide because of "the fact that the male was already down and he had medical distress before officers even arrived," Brown said.

The Medical Examiner's Office is still conducting a toxicology report to determine if the man was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of his death. Police said the report was expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

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