Medical examiner: Man who died in Norwich police custody overdosed
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has ruled the cause of death of a Norwich man who died in police custody earlier this year to be an accidental overdose.
Brenton Chambers, 42, died of acute fentanyl intoxication with recent cocaine use, a spokeswoman from the medical examiner’s office confirmed on Thursday. The case remains the subject of an active investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, which is expected to eventually issue a report on findings from an investigation into the incident.
Chambers, the owner of a local vape shop, had been in the custody of Norwich police at the time of his death. He was on probation when he was arrested on Feb. 3 for alleged possession of a handgun and a quantity of prepackaged heroin and/or fentanyl.
While in police custody, Chambers was taken to Backus Hospital for treatment of foot pain, the Office of the Inspector General said in a statement. Video footage shows Chambers returning from the hospital wearing a boot on his foot. Video footage from his prison cell at Norwich police headquarters in the early morning hours of Feb. 4 shows Chambers seated on a metal bench at 3:39 a.m. when he starts breathing heavily with his head nodding. He then starts taking long breaths, gasps and collapses backward, with his head striking the wall.
Chambers appears to go into convulsions and is not moving by 3:47 a.m. Two police officers arrived in his cell at 3:48 a.m., realize he is unresponsive and start to perform CPR. Medics arrived at 3:56 a.m.
The cause of Chambers' death had been the subject of speculation since the video footage of the events requested by news media outlets and others had not been immediately forthcoming from the Office of the Inspector General. The lack of video had led to at least one protest, with some calling for better transparency from police. By law, video footage is to be made available within 48 hours after being reviewed by police or 96 hours even if it has not been reviewed.
The inspector general’s report, which a spokesperson from the office said is forthcoming and being completed in conjunction with state police detectives, is expected to detail the events leading up to Chambers' death and examine whether the actions of officers were appropriate.
Norwich police Chief Patrick Daley declined comment, citing the open investigation.