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Suspect Dies After Hospital Care Is Denied : Police: Paramedics said man in custody was feigning illness. LAPD and prosecutors are investigating his death.

June 09, 1995|JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A robbery suspect who had complained of feeling sick died in police custody Wednesday evening shortly after Los Angeles City Fire Department paramedics told police the man was feigning illness, authorities said.

Demond Michael Johnson, 23, of Panorama City was arrested shortly before 3 p.m. and booked at the Devonshire Division station on suspicion of robbery. When jail personnel noticed that Johnson had begun shaking, city paramedics were called to the station, Los Angeles Police Sgt. Kristie Romero said.

Romero and other police officials said the paramedics examined Johnson and concluded that he was feigning his illness and said he did not need to be hospitalized. Nonetheless, an LAPD sergeant ordered that Johnson be transferred to Van Nuys Division's jail, which is staffed by medical personnel.

En route to the jail, Johnson fell into a series of seizure-like attacks and was unconscious when he arrived at the jail, police said. Johnson failed to respond to treatment by the jail's medical personnel and paramedics, and he was rushed to a Van Nuys hospital, where he died at 6:31 p.m., authorities said.

"When he arrived at the hospital he was already in full cardiac arrest," said Kimberly Ellison, a spokeswoman for the hospital. "Our emergency department tried to resuscitate him, but they could not."

Allen Cowen, the Fire Department's chief of paramedics, said he has requested reports on the incident and said the department will issue a statement later.

"You can be absolutely certain an investigation will follow," Cowen said.

The incident has also generated two investigations by the Police Department.

One will concentrate on the events leading to Johnson's death while in police custody and will be conducted in conjunction with the district attorney's office. Another will focus on the robbery Johnson was suspected of committing.

Investigators are also awaiting the outcome of autopsy results to determine the cause of Johnson's death.

Johnson was arrested near Columbus Avenue and Chase Street in North Hills by plainclothes officers from the San Fernando Valley bureau's major violators crime task force, LAPD Lt. Dan Hoffman said.

Officers assigned to the task force were conducting surveillance in the neighborhood when they were notified by robbery detectives from the Devonshire Division that Johnson might turn up in the area, Hoffman said. When Johnson showed up, he was taken into custody without incident.

Johnson was wanted in connection with a May 15 robbery in the 15000 block of Parthenia Street in which a knife was used, but no injuries were reported, said Lt. John Dunkin, a police spokesman. After being interviewed by detectives, Johnson was booked on suspicion of robbery.

As is routine, Johnson was asked during the booking process if he was sick, according to LAPD Sgt. Francis McConnell.

"He never stated at any time that he was sick," McConnell said. Johnson also did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, McConnell added.

Shortly after he was booked, Johnson complained that he was ill.

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