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San Diego

September 10, 1987

An investigation is being conducted by the San Diego County coroner's office and the San Diego Police Department's Internal Affairs Division concerning the death of a Southeast San Diego man who lost consciousness after police officers drew a sample of his blood Saturday at police headquarters.

James Augustus Williams, 36, was taken to the emergency room at San Diego Physicians & Surgeons Hospital, then transferred to UC San Diego Medical Center, where he died at 6:53 p.m. without regaining consciousness, Deputy Coroner Dan Maddox said.

Police arrested Williams on suspicion of drug-related charges and drew his blood for testing when he could not produce a urine sample. Williams could not urinate, said his physician, Dr. Thomas Ziegler, because of kidney failure, for which he was being treated. "Williams had a long history of kidney failure and had undergone dialysis treatments for the last 3 1/2 years," Ziegler said. "He also had heart disease and high blood pressure."

Ziegler said Williams had a history of using street drugs intravenously. "He was incarcerated at least six times on charges related to possession and/or sales of drugs and as a result of his repeated injections of dirty, contaminated street drugs he on several occasions developed infections of his dialysis access graft (needle site)."

"He very frequently missed scheduled dialysis treatments and was terribly uncooperative," Ziegler said.

Ziegler said police contacted physicians at Veterans Administration Hospital to find out how to draw Williams' blood without disrupting the dialysis site.

The exact cause of death is unknown pending toxicological and microscopic studies, Maddox said.

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