Officers Cleared in Death of Apprehended Suspect

February 5, 2010 – No charges will be filed against two Escondido Police officers for the death of a parolee who was high on methamphetamine as they struggled to take him into custody, the District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Officers Jeffrey Dodds and Guy Yost tried to arrest Nathan Paul Sanderson, 53, of Escondido, on Sept. 21, 2008, for smashing a window with his fist, driving erratically, trying to take his elderly father out of a care facility and triggering a fire alarm as he ran from police.

While restrained, Sanderson passed out. The officers tried to revive him with CPR, but he was placed on life support at a hospital and died four days later.

An autopsy determined that Sanderson died from lack of blood and oxygen to his brain as a result of being given CPR while being restrained “for agitated and bizarre behavior.”

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said the officers not only had the right but a duty to restrain Sanderson.

In a Jan. 21 letter to Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher that was released today, Dumanis outlined the events leading to Sanderson’s death.

She said a friend of Sanderson called police about 6:20 p.m. on Sept. 21, saying Sanderson, just out of prison, was “wigging out” on methamphetamine. Sanderson’s mother also called police, telling dispatchers, “he’s gonna hurt somebody.”

A final call to police came from the Life Care Center on Felicita Road in Escondido, where staff said Sanderson had arrived soaking wet, bleeding, and wanting to remove his elderly father. When officers arrived, Sanderson set off a fire alarm and ran outdoors.

When Dodds and Yost arrived, they held Sanderson facedown on the ground and radioed for backup and paramedics. They realized Sanderson wasn’t breathing after they handcuffed him, so they began CPR. Paramedics took Sanderson to Palomar Medical Center, where he died after four days on life support. Blood tests revealed methamphetamine and marijuana in his system. Sanderson also had Hepatitis C, liver and lung disease and could have suffered a heart attack even without drugs in his system, according to Dumanis. The officers “had both a duty and an obligation to detain and arrest” Sanderson “as well as a duty to restrain him from harming himself or causing injury to themselves or anyone else,” Dumanis wrote.

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