Suspect dies while in Memphis police custody - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Suspect dies while in Memphis police custody

(WMC-TV) - Three Memphis police officers are off the job after a man died while in their custody.

Police said they were flagged down by a woman in the area of Summer and Mendenhall Friday night.  She said she had been attacked by her boyfriend who was high on crack.

As police approached the man, they said he took off on foot.  Officers chased him though several Berclair backyards.

"We saw, gosh, I don't know, 12 or 15 police cars out here," said neighbor Sam Wortham.

They chase continued on Marcel Avenue, where police set up a perimeter.  At one point, they said they lost the suspect, but found him hiding in a bush.

A witness, who asked to remain anonymous, was unloading groceries from her car and was unaware that someone was hiding only feet away.  She said the man made direct contact.

"He looked at me with wild, wild eyes, and I said, 'I need help,'" said the witness.

Wortham said at that point, the suspect tried to get in her car and get away in it.

"I knew he wasn't going to take the car because I had the keys in my hand," said the witness.

After realizing he could not get away in her car, the witness said the suspect tried to take off again, but this time with police dogs on his track.

"They went on and I didn't see him again until they came out with the stretcher," said the witness.

After a brief struggle, officers took the man into custody, but said he became unresponsive while in custody.

The suspect was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Neighbors said they believe officers did everything by the book in apprehending a man who attempted to avoid arrest.

"He just got hold of the wrong thing or too much and his head just couldn't handle it anymore," said the witness.

The three arresting officers have been routinely relieved of duty pending the outcome of what is being called a death investigation.

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