An autopsy was performed Friday on the body of Mark Kevin Ross, the 23-year-old man who was disconnected from life-support systems Christmas Day, nearly two weeks after he lapsed into a coma following his arrest by Huntington Beach police. But the district attorney's office would not say whether a cause of death had been determined.
Ross was declared brain dead at 10:15 a.m. Thursday at Pacifica Community Hospital, a spokeswoman said. The Huntington Beach man had lain comatose and in critical condition in the intensive care unit at the hospital since Dec. 13, when he was arrested on outstanding traffic warrants.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Wallace Wade said Friday that the physical-examination portion of the autopsy was performed Friday but that toxicological and other tests must be completed before the cause of death can be released. The tests could take several weeks, he said.
The district attorney's investigation into the arrest and police handling of Ross is continuing, and Wade said he had "absolutely no idea" when the office would determine a cause of death.
The Ross family and at least two witnesses have alleged that Huntington Beach police held the man down and beat him. Police authorities have responded that Ross resisted arrest and that proper force was used.
On Wednesday, the district attorney's office said that results of toxicological tests on a blood sample taken the day of the arrest revealed that Ross had ingested significant amounts of cocaine. The amount of cocaine and metabolized traces of the drug were "significantly higher than levels that have caused cocaine overdose deaths investigated by the sheriff-coroner's office in the past," Wade said. He would not comment on whether his investigation revealed the circumstances of Ross' cocaine ingestion.
A woman answering the telephone Friday at the Ross family residence in Huntington Beach declined to comment, and the family's attorney could not be reached.
Ames Hendrickson, a St. Wilfrid's Episcopal Church counselor who worked with Ross in the church's Good Samaritan Project, said that a memorial service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the church, 18631 Chapel Lane, Huntington Beach. Hendrickson met Ross four years ago when the young man had no place to work or live.
Says He Resisted Arrest
Ross was arrested after he and his older brother, Robert, were stopped by police at Newland Street and Ellis Avenue at about 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 13. Officers Dan Johnson and Heather Dreyer found several outstanding traffic warrants against Mark Ross and told investigators that he resisted arrest while being taken into custody.
Hours later, Ross was found to be having trouble breathing at the Huntington Beach City Jail, and he was taken to Pacifica Community Hospital. Soon afterward, he lapsed into a coma.
The Ross family's attorney, James J. DiCesare, has said that he has talked with two witnesses who said police hit Ross with a baton 10 to 20 times, used a chokehold on him and held him at the scene for more than an hour. During the arrest, the witnesses heard Ross cry out that he was being hurt, and they saw blood coming from his nose and mouth, said the attorney, who would not identify the witnesses.
DiCesare said the witnesses saw bruises, but a district attorney's investigator has said Ross had only a cut lip and no other external injuries.