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Toxicology report delayed for death of man in police custody

Report on cause of death for Darris Eugene Johnson could take weeks

The state medical examiner will wait several weeks for the results of toxicology tests before releasing the cause of the death of the man who died in Portland police custody on Sunday.

The results could take six or eight weeks.

On Monday, police identified the man as 26-year-old Darris Eugene Johnson. He died in an area hospital after experiencing a medical problems following a foot chase by police.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, police wrote: 'The Oregon State Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on 26-year-old Darris Eugene Johnson and found that the cause and manner of Mr. Johnson's death are pending toxicology. The Medical Examiner found that Mr. Johnson did not have any traumatic injuries but did have a significantly enlarged heart.'

Police identified the officers in the incident as Zach Zelinka, a two-year veteran of the bureau, and Justin Thurman, a four-year veteran.

In the statement, the police said Johnson had a felony parole violation warrant issued by the Oregon State Parole Board related to a 2009 conviction for unlawful delivery of cocaine and resisting arrest. Johnson also has convictions for third-degree escape, unlawful delivery of marijuana and second-degree attempted robbery.

Detectives would like to hear from anyone with information about Johnson's activities in the 24 hours preceding his death, specifically any information about drug use, according to the statement.


Here is the statement the police issued Sunday afternoon:

Today Sunday, July 10, 2011, at 4:08 a.m. Portland Police officers assigned to East Precinct made a traffic stop of a 1988 Cadillac at Southeast 122nd and Bush for defective equipment, no taillight. The vehicle had 4 occupants. In addition to the driver there was a front seat passenger and two passengers in the back seat. Officers made contact with the driver and observed that the left rear passenger was not wearing a seatbelt. Officers obtained the identification of the driver and the left rear passenger and conducted a routine computer check. The computer check revealed that the driver did not have insurance on the vehicle.

Once officers had this information they re-approached the vehicle intending to cite the driver for no insurance and arrest the back seat passenger for furnishing false information to a police officer. When officers approached the car the left rear passenger ran from the vehicle. Officers briefly pursued the suspect on foot. Officers immediately established a perimeter and called for a canine. The police canine arrived and officers began to search the area for the suspect. As officers were pursuing the suspect the police dispatcher indicated the suspect had a felony arrest warrant for parole violation for dangerous drugs. The suspect had run and jumped over three fences prior to being located.

Officers observed the suspect hiding behind a house. Intending to arrest the suspect on the outstanding felony arrest warrant officers verbally challenged the suspect. The suspect cooperated with commands and was taken into custody without incident and without the use of any force. The suspect walked without assistance to a police car and was driven from the arrest location to the initial stop location at Southeast 122nd and Bush.

The suspect indicated that he was having trouble breathing which is not unusual after a foot pursuit. Officers noticed that he was talking continuously and his breathing was not labored. Officers began to transport the suspect and monitor him as they are trained to. At some point during the transport they noticed a change in his condition. Officers stopped the police car, took off the handcuffs, called for an ambulance and immediately began CPR. Officers continued CPR until relieved by Portland Fire Bureau Personnel.

The Portland Fire paramedics and AMR ambulance arrived on scene and provided care then transported the suspect to the Portland Adventist Medical Center. The suspect arrived at Portland Adventist Medical Center at 5:59 a.m. and Medical staff informed us the suspect suffered a medical complication and was pronounced dead at 7:58 a.m. Preliminary information from Medical staff indicated the suspect tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana and may have suffered a cardiac arrest.

As required by policy Portland Police Bureau Detectives and the Medical Examiner were notified and they responded to the scene to conduct the investigation. The Assistant Director of the Independent Police Review Division of the City Auditors Office was also notified and responded.

The investigation is continuing.

Fox News 12 contributed to this story.