Man in chase chokes, dies, police say


A man who tried to swallow a plastic bag of drugs as he was being chased by police in West Baltimore died after he apparently choked on the bag shortly after his arrest, a police spokesman said yesterday.

The incident occurred as plainclothes officers were using one of the city's police surveillance cameras to monitor suspected drug dealing Wednesday afternoon at West Lexington Avenue and North Smallwood Street.

Police, who disclosed the death yesterday, said officers drove into an alley where they suspected drug dealing was taking place and followed James Smith, 36.

Smith ran and officers pursued him, said the spokesman, Agent Donny Moses. He said the officers saw Smith place an "unknown object" in his mouth as he ran onto the 200 block of N. Smallwood St.

An officer tackled Smith, handcuffed him and waited for backup officers to arrive, Moses said.

While waiting, Smith began choking and lost consciousness, he said. The officer requested medical assistance, tried to unblock the man's airway, removed the handcuffs and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Moses said.

Smith was still unresponsive when paramedics arrived, and they were able to recover a plastic bag containing six smaller plastic bags of suspected crack cocaine from his mouth, Moses said.

Smith, of the 2500 block of W. Pratt St., was taken to Bon Secours Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 2:45 p.m., according to Moses.

Internal affairs detectives are investigating the incident as an in-custody death, and an autopsy is being conducted, he said.

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