Cocaine killed man in custody, autopsy shows

July 12, 2006|By CHRIS GUY | CHRIS GUY,SUN REPORTER

EASTON -- An autopsy by the state medical examiner has concluded that the death of an Eastern Shore man in police custody June 17 was caused by cocaine intoxication, authorities said yesterday.

Nevin Keith Potter, 32, who was arrested by an officer who used pepper spray, became ill while in a holding cell and died a day later at Easton Memorial Hospital. Shirl K. Walker, special assistant to the county medical examiner, said yesterday that the autopsy showed Potter died of cocaine intoxication, but that the investigation is continuing to try to determine further details.

State police, who were asked by Easton Police Chief Melbourne J. "Ben" Blue to investigate Potter's death, also are continuing their investigation, spokesman Greg Shipley said yesterday.

Local NAACP officials have questioned whether Easton police acted properly in using pepper spray after stopping Potter for driving with a suspended license.

According to Easton police, Potter, who friends say owned a home-repair business in nearby Denton, was arrested after he ran away from a traffic stop.

At a news conference last month attended by 50 of Potter's friends and family members, NAACP officials called for a thorough investigation by state police and vowed to look into the incident themselves.

The Rev. Daniel Higgins, a retired minister who heads the Talbot County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the civil rights organization will continue to seek witnesses, particularly because the medical examiner has not completed his report.

"I think we'll wait until a final report comes out," Higgins said yesterday.

Blue declined to comment yesterday.

Officer Eric Kellner, who arrested Potter, will remain on administrative duty until state police finish their investigation, a department spokeswoman said.

chris.guy@baltsun.com

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