Man who sought medical help dies after police struggle

He entered store, ran off, then flagged down officer

Drug overdose possible

42-year-old was taken by ambulance to hospital

April 16, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A 42-year-old man who apparently was seeking medical attention for a possible drug overdose died Monday night shortly after an altercation with Anne Arundel County police that might have been sparked by miscommunication.

Michael Cofiell stumbled into a 7-Eleven store on Furnace Branch Road in Glen Burnie shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday, complaining of chest pains and asking for medical help, police said.

When paramedics arrived, the man gave indications that he had been using drugs, police said, but then he ran away. A police car had been dispatched to the scene because the 7-Eleven clerk said the man had seemed distraught, said Cpl. Joe Hatcher, a county police spokesman.

Minutes after leaving the scene, Cofiell flagged down an off-duty police officer in a marked squad car to ask for help, Hatcher said.

As the man spoke to the off-duty officer, he overheard a description of himself broadcast over the police radio by the officer who had arrived at the 7-Eleven, Hatcher said. This apparently alarmed Cofiell, who again started to run. But this time, he was chased by the off-duty officer, Hatcher said.

It was not clear yesterday whether the police radio broadcast indicated that Cofiell was not a suspect in a crime.

"It's not against the law to run from a policeman, but when a description comes over the radio, the cop instinct takes over," Hatcher said. "He didn't know the individual was seeking medical help."

The officer, whose name was not released last night, grabbed Cofiell by the arm and took two punches from the man before he was able to handcuff him and get him to the ground, Hatcher said.

With the assistance of two officers who arrived at the scene, the off-duty officer restrained Cofiell until paramedics arrived.

During the ambulance ride to North Arundel Hospital, for which an officer was present, Cofiell struggled and resisted even as he was throwing up, Hatcher said.

When reached at home, the man's mother, Diane Cofiell, said she was told that her son went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance. She declined to comment further.

Police said that Cofiell was pronounced dead in the emergency room. Hospital officials did not release the time of death.

Hatcher said the department's homicide unit has investigated and determined that the officer did nothing wrong.

Court records show that Cofiell has several convictions in Maryland, including for theft and drug possession. Police are awaiting the results of an autopsy and toxicology report by the state medical examiner.

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