City police are investigating paddy-wagon death Police reports may conflict with other prisoners' stories.

March 04, 1992|By Frank D. Roylance and William B. Talbott | Frank D. Roylance and William B. Talbott,Staff Writers B

Baltimore police have launched an internal investigation of an arrest Monday night that ended with the death of a drug suspect in a police patrol wagon.

Robert Eugene Privett, 29, of the 1900 block of W. Belvedere Ave., was pronounced dead at the Southeastern District after police found him on the floor of the vehicle.

A ruling on the cause of his death was officially listed by the medical examiner's office as "pending," but an informed source reported that Mr. Privett had suffered body trauma and a ruptured spleen.

Police said Mr. Privett was conscious and coherent when he was placed in the wagon after a struggle with officers.

There is no indication in police reports that officers noticed anything unusual until the wagon arrived at the district station.

But four other prisoners placed in the wagon during later stops told investigators Mr. Privett was on the floor, unconscious and handcuffed, when they got in.

Mr. Privett had minor abrasions on his face and hands, and needle marks on his right wrist and arm, police said. His dentures were lodged in his throat.

Asked about a report Mr. Privett had internal injuries, Dr. Ann Dixon, a deputy state medical examiner, said, "The only thing I will tell you is the case is pending."

The police Internal Investigation Division and the Homicide Unit were investigating. Homicide detectives, who normally respond to press questions, referred reporters to the public information office.

Police said two members of the Drug Enforcement Unit Monday night saw what they believed to be a drug transaction between two men at Jefferson and Port streets.

When uniformed officer Thomas E. Jeffries 3rd attempted to arrest Mr. Privett, the two men struggled and fell, the report said. Mr. Privett was handcuffed and charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and drug possession.

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