Hagerstown Police Pledge to Investigate Man's Death in Custody

Police in Hagerstown, Maryland, are promising a thorough investigation into the death of a man in custody after officers shocked him with a stun gun outside a home he allegedly had broken into.

Police Chief Mark Holtzman said the man died either inside an ambulance, accompanied by two officers or at the hospital where he was pronounced dead early Friday morning.

Washington County Sheriff's Office identified the man as 31-year-old Darrell Lawrence Brown of Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Hagerstown police have asked the Washington County Sheriff's Office to investigate the incident. Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said the investigation will be independent and thorough.

Witnesses said the officers acted professionally in taking down Brown as he cursed at police and ignored their commands to get down. An officer fired a stun gun from at least six feet away after Brown moved toward him in an aggressive manner, said Robert Holmes, who said he watched the incident.

"They wasn't physical or nothing like that. They were pretty much doing their job," Holmes said.

Police said Brown appeared to be under the influence of drugs. They said he remained uncooperative as he was handcuffed and placed in an ambulance.

"At some point, the suspect suffered an unknown medical emergency," police said in a written statement. They said he was pronounced dead shortly after midnight at the nearby Meritus Medical Center.

The Office of the State Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death, said police spokesperson Officer Heather Aleshire.

She said she was not aware of any video of the incident.

Nine-year-old Tera Gibbs said Brown kicked in the door to her family's row house and came upstairs, where she and her sisters sleep. Tera's mother, Laura Mirfin, said she had gone out, leaving Tera and three sisters, ages 16, 14 and 13, at home.

Tera said the girls chased Brown outside and called 911.

Police said the first call reporting a disturbance, with screaming in the background, came into the 911 center around 10:30 p.m. Thursday. A second caller reported that a man broke into her house, police said.

Police said two responding officers found Brown in front of the home "in an aggressive stance" and he "appeared to be highly agitated." Two more officers and a supervisor arrived a short time later.

The suspect was black and the officers involved were all white, police said. Race has not been raised as a factor in the death, but it comes amid a national debate about the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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