Published June 16. 2011 8:51AM Updated June 17. 2011 10:48AM
Westerly — Rhode Island authorities are investigating the death last Thursday of a 34-year-old Mystic man who died 16 hours after he was arrested by Westerly police following a dispute outside a downtown coffee/wine bar.
The man, Ryan O'Loughlin of Williams Avenue, had been pepper-sprayed by police during his 12:52 a.m. arrest outside Perks and Corks and may have suffered other injuries during his detention, according to the attorney for O'Loughlin's family, Mark Dana of Providence.
Later in the morning, O'Loughlin was brought to Fourth District Court in Wakefield, R.I., where he pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and was released on bond in the afternoon.
According to Dana, O'Loughlin was not feeling well after he returned home and was taken to the Pequot Medical Center in Groton, where he died at 5:10 p.m.
The Connecticut Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner said today that the cause and manner of O'Loughlin's June 9 death is pending further study.
"He was brought to the police department. After that it's unclear what took place," Dana said, "We're still trying to piece it together."
Westerly Police Chief Edward Mello said this afternoon that when he learned of O'Loughlin's death last Friday morning, he immediately ordered an internal review of the arrest and the subsequent events.
"The Rhode Island State Police and Rhode Island Attorney General's Office are actively involved with the review process. As of this time, the investigation including the determination of the cause of death is not completed," Mello said in a statement. " We take this matter very seriously and my sympathies are extended to the family of Mr. O'Loughlin."
Perks and Corks owner Bryan Keilty said today that O'Loughlin, who he described as a regular customer and good friend, was in the High Street wine bar when another man began causing a disturbance and punching holes in the bathroom wall.
Keilty said he told the man that he either had to pay for the damage or he was going to call police. The man refused so Keilty called police. He said O'Loughlin seemed to know the man, who police identified as Daniel Smith, 28, of 21 Cottrell St., Mystic, and he followed him outside in an effort to convince him to pay.
Keilty said that when four police officers showed up, they separated the men in an alley next to the business. He said there had been no physical confrontation between the two.
Keilty said police told O'Loughlin to be quiet but he kept talking but was not swearing. Keilty said police told him they pepper-sprayed O'Loughlin, something which was confirmed by Dana. O'Loughlin was then placed in a cruiser.
Mello said O'Loughlin continually interrupted and obstructed the officers despite several warnings to move away. When he refused to move away, he was taken into custody.
Smith, meanwhile, was charged with malicious damage, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct
Keilty said he asked police if they could release O'Loughlin to him because he had not been involved in the bathroom damage but they said they could not do that and took him away.
"Whatever happened to Ryan, he didn't deserve it. He was a really good guy," Keilty said.
O'Loughlin was a native of Bristol and a U.S. Navy veteran of the Gulf War. Employed as an engineer, he is survived by his wife, parents and a sister. His funeral was Tuesday in Bristol.