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Medical Examiner rules restraint contributed to in-custody death of Vista man

San Diego County Sheriff's Department
Posted at 11:29 AM, Apr 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 06:36:46-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — New details are emerging about the death of a man in San Diego Sheriff’s deputies’ custody.

A recently released Medical Examiner’s report says an arrestee’s death last year was a "homicide." The District Attorney's office said last year that none of the deputies involved in the in custody death will face any criminal charges.

Oscar Leal died last February 28 after deputies responded to his apartment in Vista and detained him.

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The autopsy report said the 37-year-old died from a sudden cardiac death due to chronic methamphetamine use, a physical altercation with deputies and being restrained.

The Medical Examiner’s homicide classification is not a legal term, but a medical assessment.

The DA's office wrote in part of a nine-page summary and statement in December last year:

"... His level of methamphetamine intoxication combined with his active resistance combativeness in the duration of the struggle, all contributed to his death ... The deputies involved in his detention acted reasonably under the circumstances in bear no state criminal liability for their actions."

The Sheriff Bill Gore wrote in a statement:

"I am aware of the Medical Examiner's conclusion regarding the manner of death of Mr. Leal. I respectfully disagree with the classification of the manner of death in this case as a homicide.

The pathologist wrote that his death was due to acute methamphetamine toxicity in the setting of agitation, physical altercation, and prone restraint. It was purely due to Mr. Leal's agitation that he was restrained. Peace officers have a duty to restrain those who are agitated and under arrest, as Mr. Leal was. Were it not for Mr. Leal's abuse of methamphetamine he would be alive today. The deputies and nurses on scene rendered immediate aid to Mr. Leal.

Mr. Leal brought upon his own death with his choice to use methamphetamine. His manner of death is more accurately classified as an accident."

It has not been made clear yet why the medical examiners report took 13 months to be released.