DA clears Greensboro police of any wrongdoing after man collapsed in custody, died at hospital

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Greensboro police have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing after a man collapsed in custody and died at the hospital.

Marcus Deon Smith, 38, of Greensboro, died at about 1:50 a.m. on Sept. 8 after he was restrained following what police described as erratic behavior.

District Attorney J. Douglas Henderson issued a report on Dec. 28 stating, “The unequivocal answer is that there is no evidence to substantiate a basis for criminal charges in this matter.”

The report details what the district attorney understands happened based on interviews, reports, photographs and other evidence and records.

At 12:45 a.m. on Sept. 8, police encountered Smith on the 100 block of North Church Street while they working at the North Carolina Folk Festival in downtown Greensboro.

The report states that officers believed he was under the influence of an impairing substance and behaving erratically.

He was running in and out of traffic, shouting, “Help,” “I want to go to the hospital,” “They’re trying to kill me” and “I’m going to kill myself,” Henderson wrote.

Officers warned him to stay out of traffic and tried to block off part of the roadway with construction barrels to protect him and drivers.

As backup was called in, the officers tried to contain him by forming a loose circle around him.

Police say they told him they wanted to take him to the hospital, but Smith continued running around.

The report says he was sweating profusely and occasionally stumbling, falling and getting back up again.

Officers tried to guide Smith into a patrol car.

“Any physical contact between Mr. Smith and the officers was minimal as they attempted to guide him to an open police car door,”  Henderson wrote.

EMS arrived as Smith complied and got into the car.

Smith, not restrained or in handcuffs, then became disruptive again in the backseat of the police car.

He was shouting, slamming himself into the passenger door and hitting the passenger window with his hands, the report reads.

An EMT recognized him from a previous, similar encounter and recommended he be restrained for his and their safety before transport to the hospital.

When it appeared Smith was going to kick out the car window, an officer opened the rear door, allowing Smith to exit.

The man fell toward officers onto the ground.

Officers tried to get control of him as he kicked and flailed, finally getting him into handcuffs behind his back.

With Smith continuing to kick, officers bound his ankles and linked his ankle and wrist restraints using the “Ripp Hobble” device.

“Mr. Smith was neither struck nor was any unreasonable pressure applied to his body,” Henderson wrote.

Immediately after officers secured additional restraints, Smith became unresponsive.

Officers helped EMS put him onto a stretcher and then into the ambulance.

Despite lifesaving efforts, Smith died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

“It was noted that there were no visible signs of injury as a result of the incident on the body of Mr. Smith,” Henderson wrote.

An autopsy concluded that the cause of death was “sudden cardiopulmonary arrest due in part to prone restraint, a combination of illicit drugs and alcohol and hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.”

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