Report: NC man died of cardiac arrest during police restraint

Autopsy reports acute cocaine toxicity, bruises from baton strikes, TASER use, and body weight restraint before cardiac arrest and request for ambulance

By Sarah Willets
The Robesonian

LUMBERTON, N.C. — A Lumberton man who died after Robeson County deputies used a stun gun on him in December died of cardiac arrest, according to an autopsy, and had cocaine in his system.

William Mark Jones, 50, was pronounced dead about three hours after he encountered two deputies while walking on the 1400 block of Snipes Road in Red Springs early the morning of Dec. 2.

An autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner lists Jones’ cause of death as “sudden cardiac arrest during restraint by law enforcement in the setting of acute cocaine intoxication” and details bruises, scrapes and fractures suffered by Jones either before or during his encounter with deputies. It said Jones had “.44 milligrams per liter” of cocaine in his system.

The report says an examination was conducted on Dec. 3 and was signed and dated by a doctor on March 12. The autopsy report and a toxicology report were sent to The Robesonian at the request of a reporter.

According to the State Bureau of Investigation, Jones was reportedly bleeding and “behaving erratically” when he met the deputies. The autopsy, citing information given by the Sheriff’s Office, says Jones had been knocking on residents’ doors asking for help when deputies were called to the area. When the deputies encountered him, Jones was “sweating profusely,” “not making sense” and asking for help but “did not respond to specific offers for help from the deputies,” the report said. The autopsy confirmed that Jones had suffered a head wound.

Jones’ family maintains that deputies were out of bounds when they used a Taser on him. They believe he may have been robbed before meeting the deputies.

“William Mark Jones, a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, co-worker and friend, was a victim of a crime,” the family wrote in a statement. “Rather than helping him when asked, the police used a Taser on him and he died. Being such a devoted family man and sole provider for his family, he is truly loved and missed dearly. We, the family, continue to ask for prayers to get us through this daily struggle at this time.”

According to the report, Jones did not follow deputies’ instructions to get out of the roadway and deputies attempted to arrest him. Jones tried to flee and a deputy struck him with a baton, the report said. The autopsy shows Jones suffered “numerous abrasions and contusions of the torso and extremities.” At least four of those injuries appeared to be caused by baton strikes.

The deputies then used a Taser on Jones both by deploying the electrified prongs and by holding it directly against his body, and “used body weight” to restrain Jones while placing him in handcuffs, the report said. A deputy realized Jones was not breathing after handcuffs and leg irons were placed on him, the report said.

Deputies called Emergency Medical Services, which arrived 14 minutes later, and administered CPR and a defibrillator while waiting on paramedics. According to the autopsy, six of Jones’ ribs were fractured, which a medical examiner said appeared to have resulted from attempts to resuscitate him. The report says Jones had “borderline cardiomegaly,” a slight enlargement of the heart often caused by high-blood pressure.

Teresa West, an SBI spokesperson, said that agency’s investigation is complete. Once the autopsy and case summary are added to the SBI’s file, it will be delivered to the Robeson County District Attorney’s office, which will determine if any crimes occurred. It is standard procedure for the SBI to investigate deaths of individuals who are in police custody.

West said she could not comment on the conclusions of the investigation before the District Attorney “has had an opportunity to review the investigative file and make decisions regarding prosecution.” Sheriff Kenneth Sealey, citing the same reason, declined to comment for this story.

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