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OKC Police Investigating In-Custody Death Of Suspect

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Two Oklahoma City Police Officers are on paid leave after a man dies in their custody. Two Oklahoma City Police Officers are on paid leave after a man dies in their custody.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

Two Oklahoma City Police Officers are on paid leave after a man dies in their custody.

Police said he'd been tied up and held down by a group of people who claimed he was breaking into their cars, and when officers arrived to handcuff him, they discovered he wasn't breathing.

5/27/15 Related Story: OKC Police Investigating After A Man Dies In Custody

It was in a wooded area near NE 23rd and the Canadian River that police were called to and found that group of people and that man. They are still investigating exactly what happened but News 9's Adrianna Iwasinski ran into one guy who came face-to-face with the man just hours before the incident.

“He come up here with me and he just took off,” said Michael Tabor, who lives in a makeshift compound in the woods not too far from where the incident happened.

Tabor said he was on his way down the muddy trails to get a cup of coffee Wednesday morning when he discovered a stranger in the woods.

“I met him through the brush,” said Tabor. “He was talking real fast, and I noticed sweat bumps all over his forehead.”

Tabor said the man appeared to be under the influence of drugs and he couldn't make out what he was trying to tell him.

Hours later, police were called to the same field after a group of people riding their motorcycles reported their cars were being broken into by a violent man, and that they had tied him with rope and were holding him down.

“Various citizens were holding him on the ground because he was still being combative,” said Captain Paco Balderrama with the Oklahoma City Police Department. “The officers then placed handcuffs on him, got him into custody, and soon realized he was not breathing - he was having some sort of a medical episode.”

Police said the responding officers removed the handcuffs and the rope and began to perform CPR. They also called for paramedics to assist. The man was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

“We never advocate for people to put themselves in danger and obviously to take the law into their own hands,” Balderrama said. “But in this situation they saw somebody vandalizing their property and they took action.”

Police said citizens are within their legal right to make a citizen's arrest if they see a crime being committed and they have the right to detain a person until police get there in order to arrest that person and take over.

“We are going to go ahead and treat this as an in custody death because officers had placed handcuffs on him, but obviously most of this incident had already taken place by the time police arrived,” said Balderrama. “This investigation is going to take some time. It's going to take some time to gather all the evidence.”

Tabor said he feels guilty he didn't call police earlier and wonders if it could have saved the man's life.

“I thought I could help you know,” said Tabor.

Right now, police are not releasing the names of the people involved. They are waiting for the medical examiner's report to determine exactly what caused the man's death, and to determine what if any charges will be filed.

“Last night based on the info we had and the evidence we had there was no probable cause to arrest anybody,” said Balderrama.

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