ESCONDIDO: Autopsy shows man killed by cop was on medication
By BRANDON LOWREY – firstname.lastname@example.org North County Times – The Californian | Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 3:54 pm |
A San Diego County Medical Examiner's report has revealed new details about the most recent fatal shooting by Escondido police.
Van Dinh Le, a 51-year-old man, was killed in March after he reportedly lunged at officers with a knife. He had in his home at least five prescription medications for depression, insomnia and high blood pressure, the report said.
At about 8:30 a.m. March 3, Le's wife and neighbors called 911 to report he had locked himself in an upstairs bathroom and cut his throat in the couple's new home in the 2500 block of Hamlin Court. Two Escondido police officers arrived and entered the house with a shield.
They found the door to the upstairs bathroom closed, but could see the light was on.
Officer Matthew Nelson yelled to Le, but heard nothing back.
Nelson opened the door and found Le —- 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 135 pounds —- bleeding from his neck. He was wearing a black, long-sleeved shirt and navy blue sweatpants, and he was holding a knife.
"After several warnings, the decedent (Le) did not put the weapon down but instead advanced toward Officer Nelson," the report said.
Nelson fired one round, striking Le above his left eye. Le was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:46 a.m., about 15 minutes after the 911 operators received the call.
A deputy medical examiner found a therapeutic level of sertraline and trace amounts of mirtazapine in his blood —- a cocktail of depression-fighting drugs that has the potential for significant adverse interactions, according to Medscape, a reference service used by health care professionals.
Le had also apparently cut his external jugular vein.
Other medications found at his home were Lunesta, a sleep aid; propranolol, used to treat high blood pressure; and seroquel, typically used to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There were no signs of drug abuse, the report said.
Le's wife told investigators her husband had a history of depression.
Nelson had been involved in an unrelated shooting five years earlier.
On March 6, 2006, he and a partner were called to a senior citizen apartment complex after 75-year-old William Sloan reportedly punched a 92-year-old woman during an argument over a shopping cart. After officers arrived, Sloan pulled an AK-47 out of his apartment and started firing at Nelson.
A gun battle and lengthy standoff followed. The officers struck Sloan with several bullets, but Sloan ultimately died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A letter from the San Diego County District Attorney's office affirmed the officers were justified in their shooting of Sloan about a year later. Nelson and his partner, then-Officer Craig Miller, received the Medal of Valor and Miller has since been promoted to sergeant.
The district attorney's office has yet to release a letter reviewing Le's fatal shooting.
Call staff writer Brandon Lowrey at 760-740-3517.