Toledo man dies at hospital while under police custodyWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
A Toledo man died early this morning while under police custody at a hospital. The incident remains under investigation, but Toledo’s police chief said no wrongdoing has been found.
Aaron Pope, 34, was pronounced dead at 1:14 a.m. March 27 at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, said Mercy spokeswoman Sarah Bednarski, about an hour after he arrived at the hospital and about an hour and 20 minutes after police responded to a 911 call about him.
Officers were dispatched to an apartment building at 419 4th St. in East Toledo just before midnight after a 911 call at 11:53 p.m. March 26 from Pope’s cousin, who stated Pope was “tearing up” her residence, Toledo Police Chief George Kral told media during a news conference March 27.
When police arrived at 11:57 p.m., they found Pope on the ground by the front porch of the building “in an extremely agitated state” and suspected to be under the influence of drugs, Kral said.
He was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police vehicle and transported to the hospital, Kral said.
“We were never going to take him to jail,” Kral said. “The jail has certain requirements on who they will take and who they won’t. Someone in such an acute state as Mr. Pope, they will not take him. … He was extremely agitated, like I said, and with the history of Mr. Pope and his drug use, we knew we were going to have to take him to the hospital.”
TPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Joe Heffernan said transporting people in custody to a hospital in a police vehicle rather than an ambulance depends on the situation, but is common procedure for those with minor injuries or under the influence of drugs or alcohol who need to be medically cleared before being transferred to the jail.
“He wasn’t at a distressed state to the point they felt he needed an ambulance at that stage,” Kral said.
Heffernan said Pope was laid down on his side in the back of a TPD wagon — a full-size Ford van — that was called to the scene to transport him to the hospital, but that his condition “deteriorated” on the way.
Pope arrived at the hospital at 12:18 a.m., where he was having difficulty breathing, Kral said.
Kral said there are so far no indications of police wrongdoing and all officers involved with the call remain on duty.
“At this stage of the investigation, it appears there was no wrongdoing from any Toledo police officer and no polices or procedures were violated,” Kral said, adding that the incident remains under investigation.
No “striking techniques” or instruments like Tasers or mace were used on Pope, Heffernan said.
Pope was released from prison earlier this week, following a 17-month sentence for assaulting a Toledo police officer.
“Mr. Pope is well-known to us,” Kral said. “He has an extensive arrest record. … There’s been premise history for that location on him.”
An autopsy is scheduled for March 30. Police video footage from inside the wagon is expected to be released March 30, Heffernan said.