Suspect dies in police custody

Man, 25, swallowed bags of drugs, Harford County officials say

June 01, 2008|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

A man who had been charged last week with kidnapping and assaulting another man in Harford County died after a struggle Friday night after he allegedly swallowed drugs and fought with sheriff's deputies, authorities said yesterday.

The officers used a stun device to try to control him before they discovered that plastic bags filled with suspected cocaine had lodged in his airway and prevented him from breathing, according to a spokesman with the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

Justin Eugene Bolden, 25, was arrested shortly after 8 p.m. Friday at a Wawa market in Street on a warrant charging him with violating his probation terms in connection with another case. The previous Friday, he and his father were charged with kidnapping and assaulting another man, but Bolden was freed on $200,000 bond.

During his latest arrest, Bolden was searched by Harford County sheriff's deputies at the Wawa. Then the deputies took him to the processing facility at the detention center, where he was searched again, according to Sgt. David Betz, a sheriff's office spokesman.

During this second search, Bolden was not handcuffed and, investigators believe, was able to reach into his underwear and put an unspecified number of plastic bags that contained suspected cocaine in his mouth in an attempt to conceal them, Betz said.

"They don't know how he put the drugs in his mouth," Betz said. "Nobody saw him put the drugs in his mouth. ... When they applied the stun device, they didn't know" he had something in his mouth, he said.

During the search, Bolden stopped talking, didn't move and refused to comply with orders while standing with deputies and correctional officers, Betz said. An officer twice applied a stun device to him to get him to comply with the search procedures, Betz said.

After handcuffing Bolden again, the officers discovered that his airway was obstructed and they twice attempted the Heimlich maneuver, but Bolden kicked one of the officers in the groin area, Betz said. The officer tackled Bolden to the floor, causing a laceration on his head, Betz said.

Detention center officials called for an ambulance, which transported Bolden to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, where he died later that night, Betz said.

The state medical examiner's office completed an autopsy yesterday and ruled out the head injury as a cause of death, Betz said. But additional tests are being performed, and a determination of the cause of death is pending, Betz said. He said about 15 grams of suspected cocaine was recovered from Bolden's mouth.

Bolden, and his father, Johnny Bolden, 48, were charged May 23 with kidnapping and beating a 52-year-old Bel Air man. Justin Bolden posted $200,000 bond, while his father remained in jail because he was unable to post the same bond, electronic court records show.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Justin Bolden again Friday because a Harford County Circuit Court judge signed a warrant for his arrest Thursday for violating the terms of his probation on another case, according to a sheriff's office news release yesterday.

The warrant for the probation violation is connected to a case in July 2004 in which Bolden pleaded guilty to drug possession with intent to distribute. As a result, he was given a two-year jail sentence, followed by two years of supervised probation, court records show.

In addition to the drug-related conviction four years ago, Bolden was convicted of resisting arrest in 2001. In the weeks before his arrest on kidnapping and assault charges, Bolden had been charged with assault and harassment after he allegedly threatened and chased a man who owed him money, The Sun previously reported.

An arrest warrant has also been issued for Bolden's younger brother, Reginald Leon Bolden, 24, who is accused of shooting and wounding a 24-year-old Havre de Grace man outside a Waffle House in Belcamp on May 24 in a case that officials said is not connected to the kidnapping.

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