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Autopsy: Death of man in custody was accident

Citizen Staff Writer



The death of Michael E. Moreno, who stopped breathing while being restrained by police Jan. 31, was an accident, the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

Forensic pathologist Eric D. Peters said in an autopsy report released Wednesday, that the cause of death was “acute cocaine intoxication.”

“Prone restraint, and obesity” with an enlarged heart “are contributory,” he wrote.

“The manner of death was an accident,” Peters concluded.

Police had taken Moreno, 42, into custody, forcing him facedown on the ground, after a 911 call about a man behaving erratically at a South Side gas station.

An officer wrote in his incident report that Moreno was restrained “for his own safety and went unconscious.”

Police reports of the incident said an officer pressed his knee on Moreno’s shoulder while another officer held down his legs, at one point crossing them over each other.

The report said he was facedown for about a minute.

He could not be revived by Tucson Fire Department medical personnel, police records showed.

Police said Moreno was seen striking the glass front of a gas station store with a broom handle and with his wallet.

Moreno’s body was examined several hours after the asthmatic diabetic died at 5:45 a.m. at a local hospital.

The medical examination showed he had a hemorrhage in muscle under the skin at the right upper back, where an officer said he restrained him with his knee, according to police reports.

The report also noted that Moreno had bilateral rib fractures but did not state a cause for the fractures. The report said Moreno weighed 296 pounds.

Police said Moreno banged his head on the ground repeatedly after they restrained him but the report said there was no skull fracture or brain injury.

Officer Charles Rydzak, a spokesman for the Tucson Police Department, said he had no comment on the autopsy report.

A police board of inquiry, standard procedure when a suspect dies in custody, continues, Rydzak said.

Moreno, a Tohono O’odham Nation member, was born in Nogales and buried in Sells, where his mother lives.

He, his wife and three young children lived in Idaho. He was in Tucson working a temporary truck driving job after being laid off in Idaho.

Autopsy: Death of man restrained by police caused by ‘acute cocaine intoxication’

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