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NYC police union leader: Officers aren't responsible for death of drugged-out man in custody

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Officers shouldn't be held responsible for the death of a drugged-out man in police custody, the head of a police union said Saturday.

The New York Police Department said Friday it was being investigated by Manhattan prosecutors for the July 13 death of Ronald Singleton. The 45-year-old was high on PCP, a hallucinogenic drug, and had been acting erratic in a taxi when officers responding to a 911 call restrained him, placing him in a protective body wrap, police said. He was headed to a hospital to undergo a psychiatric evaluation when he went into cardiac arrest and died.

The medical examiner's office said Singleton was in a state of excited delirium related to severe intoxication from the drug. It cited "physical restraint by police" as well as heart disease as contributing factors in his death.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said it was the PCP that placed Singleton's life in jeopardy and that officers were just doing their jobs.

"The drug puts the abuser in an extremely agitated state while boosting the person's strength to abnormal levels," Lynch said in a statement. "Our members follow department protocols designed to best insure the safety of the drug abuser and of the police officers who are attempting to get the individual the necessary medical aid."

It is the second recent police custody death under scrutiny, after the July 17 chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Garner, a 43-year-old father of six who had asthma, could be heard on an amateur video shouting "I can't breathe!" as an officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The officer was stripped of his gun and badge.

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