Eight weeks after a Salt Lake City man died in police custody, Chief Chris Burbank met with a group of ministers who say they have been fielding calls from area churchgoers asking whether force was used in his arrest.
Allen Nelson, 44, died June 9 while officers attempted to arrest him near 700 South Laconia Court (250 East), Burbank said during a Thursday meeting with several pastors at Calvary Baptist Church.
Burbank said neighbors reported Nelson was causing a disturbance, and one person was heard shouting, "Call the police!"
When officers arrived, they handcuffed Nelson and planned to take him to jail on suspicion of creating a disturbance, Burbank said. Nelson became agitated and struggled with officers, so they forced him to the ground, Burbank said.
The officers noticed Nelson was struggling to breathe, Burbank said; witnesses reported they heard officers repeatedly asking Nelson, "Are you OK?"
Officers sat Nelson upright, but he stopped breathing when the ambulance arrived, and he died at the scene, Burbank said.
Medical examiners are awaiting toxicology results and have not reported the cause of Nelson's death. Given his agitation, investigators are speculating that he either failed to take medication for a health condition or took some sort of illegal drug, Burbank said.
Burbank dispelled rumors that a Taser was used in the arrest.
The two officers who arrested the man were placed on administrative leave but have since been returned to duty, Burbank said.
Nelson's pastor, Nurjhan B. Govan at Trinity A.M.E. Community Church, said Nelson recently had gotten out of prison and was "trying to turn his life around."
"I think it's a series of very unfortunate moves," Govan said of the circumstances leading to Nelson's death. "He's gone."
Burbank said final autopsy results may be available in four or five months.