Two police officers won't face criminal charges after a man choked to death from swallowing drugs while in their custody earlier this year, a western Arkansas prosecutor said Monday.
An autopsy conducted at the state Crime Laboratory determined that Darrell K. Hays II, 51, died accidentally after his airway became blocked following his April 19 arrest in Fort Smith. The report also noted a potentially lethal amount of methamphetamine in his system.
Authorities said previously that two officers found Hays had an outstanding warrant, and they recovered drug paraphernalia in his car.
Investigators reviewed footage of the stop showing Hays put a bag of meth in his mouth while in the police car, Sebastian County prosecutor Daniel Shue said in a letter Monday clearing the officers of any criminal wrongdoing.
While in the Sebastian County jail, Hays began gasping for air and medical crews brought him to a hospital where he later died, officials said.
Shue said the Crime Lab report suggested the level of drugs in Hays' system was also lethal. Medical staff recovered the small bag he had swallowed after he died.
"Considering the totality of the circumstances and the applicable law, no criminal charges can be brought," Shue wrote.
Fort Smith police placed the two officers on paid administrative leave following the death.
Monday's decision comes a week after Shue declined to file criminal charges after an inmate at the county jail died in March from a rare form of bacterial pneumonia.
The Arkansas State Police investigated both deaths and passed its finding to Shue's office.