WAUKEGAN (Fox 32/Sun-Times Media Wire) - A man died Thursday after he ate a “white substance” while fleeing officers on foot in north suburban Waukegan, police said.
Detectives confronted the man about 3 p.m. in the 600 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and attempted to serve an arrest warrant, Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles wrote in a statement.
Detectives were initially in the block serving a search warrant for drugs on a home when they saw 31-year-old Avion Cotton drive up, exit his vehicle and approach the targeted home, police and the Lake County coroner’s office said.
As detectives approached him, Cotton fled on foot and began “to eat an unknown white substance,” authorities said. He fell and was apprehended, but continued to chew the substance and refused commands to spit it out.
He became “physically distressed” and detectives called for an ambulance, Walles said. Paramedics took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities did not confirm whether Cotton ingested drugs.
An autopsy performed on Friday revealed “multiple bags containing a white rocklike substance” in his stomach and esophagus, the coroner’s office said. The preliminary autopsy results and toxicology tests are pending.
The death is being classified as an “in-custody death,” Walles said. Illinois State Police are investigating.
“The Waukegan Police Department has requested the ISP to conduct an independent investigation reference the in-custody death,” a state police spokesperson said in a statement. “ISP investigators have responded. The investigation is in its preliminary stages and no information is being released at this time.”
Family members of Cotton say he had just gotten out of his car and had come from a meeting with his probation officer when police approached and he ran. Police chased the man and tackled him to the ground, family said. Cotton was in handcuffs when family says police choked him, maced him and tased him.