- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

EASTON, Md. (AP) — A state police investigation found no wrongdoing by Easton police in the case of a Grasonville man who died of a cocaine overdose in their custody, Talbot County prosecutors said.

Nevin K. Potter, 32, was arrested June 16 and died the next day after he became ill while inside a holding cell.

State’s Attorney Scott G. Patterson said he considers the matter closed and his office will take no action.

“The thorough investigative report conducted by the assigned investigator reveals neither suspicion or wrongdoing by the Easton police nor any conduct by Easton officers that contributed to Mr. Potter’s death,” Mr. Patterson wrote in a recent statement. “There is no evidence of any mistreatment, excessive force, or improper conduct by the involved Easton police officers.”

Mr. Patterson declined to provide a copy of the state police report to the Easton Star Democrat, but said he would do so if given permission by the state attorney general’s office.

Local NAACP representatives have been critical of Easton police in the wake of Mr. Potter’s death.

A statement issued in September by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapters in Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties labeled the official investigations “a cover-up” and called for “the termination of any officials who participated in the cover-up.”

According to an autopsy report, Mr. Potter had scrapes and bruises on his body. The report also states he was “forcefully arrested.”

“[Mr. Potter] was arrested on the ground,” Mr. Patterson said. “In my understanding, they were superficial injuries — scrapes, contusions — which were probably consistent with him being arrested.”

Mr. Patterson also said a videotape of Mr. Potter inside the holding cell shows him collapsing and falling from a sitting position onto the floor, which could have contributed to his injuries.

Police have said that an officer tried to arrest Mr. Potter for driving on a suspended license on June 16.

Mr. Potter ran away, then turned to confront the officer, who pepper-sprayed Mr. Potter in the face before arresting him.

According to police, Mr. Potter declined medical treatment, but officers noticed he was “showing signs of distress” while inside the holding cell. He was taken to a hospital, where he died the next day.

The autopsy report lists the cause of death as cocaine intoxication but the manner of death as “undetermined.”

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