- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Four sheriff’s officers have been returned to duty based on preliminary findings that they didn’t use excessive force on a Nevada man who died handcuffed in a motel parking lot, Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said Friday.

Las Vegas police and the coroner in neighboring Clark County investigated the Aug. 15 death of Joshua Coats, Wehrly told reporters at the sheriff’s office in Pahrump. The Associated Press participated in the briefing by conference call.

Based on initial results, including a review of patrol vehicle dashcam video, the sheriff said she returned detectives Michael Eisenloffel and Logan Gibbs, and deputies Travis Buffi and Allen Lynn to work.

“They haven’t been exonerated yet, but they’ve been returned to duty,” Wehrly said.

Coats, 41, died in wrist and ankle restraints after deputies and medics were called about 11:30 p.m. Aug. 14 to a report of a man who was out of control in the parking lot of a motel of the small town about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas, the sheriff said.



No one else was injured, Wehrly said.

A coroner’s autopsy found Coats had a toxic level of a muscle-relaxant called cyclobenzaprine in his system. The drug can have side effects including hallucinations, restlessness and seizures.

The medical report also cited a congenital heart defect and police restraints as factors in Coats’ death, and classified the death as a homicide.

Wehrly and Coroner John Fudenberg said the finding doesn’t establish fault.

“By no means does our ruling mean there was excessive or inappropriate force,” Fudenberg told AP.

Wehrly said the investigation remained open, and findings will be turned over to Nye County District Attorney Angela Bello for review.

The sheriff said Coats himself placed at least one 911 call, and others reported that he had been yelling, throwing rocks and trying to set fire to propane tanks.

The patrol vehicle dashcam video wasn’t released.

Wehrly said it shows officers controlling Coats’ arms and legs and putting him face-down with his wrists shackled to a belt chain.

The intent had been to take him to a medical facility for a psychiatric evaluation, the sheriff said.

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