McLEAN, Va. (AP) — An unarmed, naked man died after an encounter with police in northern Virginia in which the man was trying to hurt himself, authorities said Wednesday.
Fairfax County Police said Wednesday that 31-year-old Christopher Paul of Alexandria was pronounced dead at a hospital after becoming unresponsive while in handcuffs and restraints.
Police were called to the home Tuesday afternoon for a possible overdose, Chief Edwin Roessler said at a news conference. A family member who had been struck in the head placed the call, police said. Authorities had initially said that they were responding to a domestic call. Roessler said the family member’s injury was not connected to any domestic violence.
When officers arrived, they encountered Paul, naked, in what Roessler described as a “medical and/or mental-health episode” in which he was trying to harm himself. Roessler did not describe in detail how Paul was trying to hurt himself but said it involved “thrashing himself and throwing himself to the ground.”
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Roessler said the officers had training in crisis intervention and mental-health response and tried to talk to Paul to de-escalate the situation.
Roessler said Paul fell at one point and officers moved in to restrain him. Roessler said no weapons were used.
The restraints included handcuffs and a nylon strap to restrain his legs, Roessler said. While restrained and being evaluated by medics, Paul became unresponsive, Roessler said.
Throughout the episode, Roessler said officers’ emphasis was preservation of life. “That was our goal throughout this event,” he said.
Six officers responded in total, with experience ranging from four months to 15 years. They have been placed on routine administrative leave during an internal affairs investigation. Police said they will turn over the findings of their criminal investigation to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office for review.
An autopsy is being performed as the investigation continues.
Roessler said one officer wore a body camera, and footage will be released at a later date.