Man dead after arrest

He stopped breathing in scuffle with officers

Died later at hospital

Howard police think suspect had used PCP

May 11, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A heavyset 37-year-old Jessup man believed to be under the influence of PCP died early yesterday morning, shortly after three Howard County police officers tried to arrest him, police said.

William Grant Jr., who was behaving erratically while visiting a woman in Elkridge, died after tackling an officer, Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

Asked whether officers appear to have followed procedure during the attempted arrest, Llewellyn said police are in "the very early stage of the investigation." As with all in-custody deaths, an autopsy report is pending.

The incident happened less than a day after the state medical examiner ruled the March death of a 20-year-old on PCP a homicide. He died of asphyxia while Prince George's County officers tried to restrain him, according to that county's Police Department.

In yesterday's incident, officers responded at about 4:30 a.m. to a report of a domestic dispute between Grant, of the 2000 block of Horseshoe Circle, and a woman he was visiting in the 8000 block of Keeton Way.

The woman fled to a nearby home, where a neighbor called 911, police said.

The woman and the officers at the scene described the Grant's behavior as delusional, erratic and bizarre, Llewellyn said.

After Grant -- described as 5 feet 10 inches tall and about 260 pounds -- tackled an officer, two others tried to handcuff him, Llewellyn said. None of the officers was seriously injured, she said.

Grant initially stopped breathing during the arrest attempt, police said.

Officers called for an ambulance and administered CPR, Llewellyn said. After reviving him, Grant's breathing continued to be labored, and he was transported to Howard County General Hospital, she said.

He arrived at the hospital at 5:45 a.m. and was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later, Llewellyn said.

Through an interview with the woman, police determined Grant had likely used PCP just before the arrest, Llewellyn said.

PCP can cause users to feel anxious and combative, especially if they feel unsafe, said Rachael Bongiorno of the Drug Information Service for the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. Other effects of PCP can include slurred speech and occasionally seizures, coma or a changed heart rate, she said.

A woman reached at Grant's home by telephone yesterday declined to comment.

The Jessup man is the second in the past five weeks to die while in Howard County police custody. Last month, 32-year-old Michael Keliher Donahue of Annapolis stopped breathing in a holding cell at the Southern District Howard County police station.

Donahue was accused of driving under the influence, police said.

Based on a drug expert's evaluation and pills found in Donahue's van, police say he was under the influence of a narcotic analgesic and a hallucinogen, police spokeswoman Pfc. Lisa Myers said.

An autopsy report in that case may not be complete for another four weeks, said John Hammond, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay has said it appears officers followed departmental procedures in that case.

But Donahue's family "will almost certainly file a complaint against Howard County," their attorney David Schertler said yesterday.

The Washington-based law firm of Coburn & Schertler is conducting an investigation into Donahue's arrest April 5 and subsequent death.

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