Death of homeless man in police custody was accidental, medical examiner says

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Authorities have ruled as accidental the death of a homeless man who became unresponsive while in police custody.

Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel told The Bellingham Herald that 49-year-old Robert Gagnon died of cardiac complications caused by acute methamphetamine use. He called the matter “accidental.”

Gagnon died early Thursday after he was taken to the hospital.

Bellingham police responded late Wednesday to an emergency homeless shelter where staff had asked for help.

Police said in a news release that Gagnon was showing signs of crises and appeared to be suffering from delusions and paranoia.

Police said they used verbal and de-escalation skills to get him into protective custody so he could be taken to the hospital.

Surveillance and body-camera video shows three officers struggling with Gagnon outside the homeless center before he become unresponsive. Gagnon can be heard asking whether they are “real police” and yelling for help.

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