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Man dies in police custody after concert scuffle

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- An investigation was underway Thursday into the death of a man while under arrest on suspicion of public intoxication during a concert at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista.

Venue security personnel asked a man in his late 50s who appeared to be intoxicated to show them his ticket for the performance of the Dead & Company, the latest iteration of the Grateful Dead, after spotting him moving from seat to seat around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to a Chula Vista police statement.

The man couldn't produce a ticket and was being escorted toward the exit when a scuffle ensued. Chula Vista police officers working the special event were summoned to assist when the man attempted to flee.

He was handcuffed, but started “screaming incoherently and acting irrationally'' as he was being taken to the venue's security office. Police said he then attempted to run off again and struggled briefly with officers before being detained and ultimately arrested on suspicion of public intoxication. The man was evaluated by paramedics, who determined he was not seriously injured.

Chula Vista police officers were completing paperwork on the arrest when he appeared to fall asleep while sitting upright in a chair.

“He was seated in a chair, handcuffed inside the room. An officer was there present doing some paperwork processing him for the arrest for being intoxicated. Could hear him snoring, he appeared to be sleeping normally,” said Chula Vista Police Lt. Fritz Reber.  “At some point he stopped snoring. The officer went over and checked on him within minutes, and saw that he was not responsive. Not at all responding to her. And so she yelled to the paramedics who were right outside the door. They came in tried to revive him. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful,”

Chula Vista Lt. Fritz Reber said officers checked on him when he stopped snoring around 8:40 p.m. and found him unresponsive, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene at about 9:15 p.m.

The cause of the man's death was not immediately known, and his name has yet to be made public. An autopsy was pending.

“Obviously tragic situation, nothing that we want to see happen again… just… it’s tragic,” said Lt. Reber.

The CVPD's Crimes of Violence Unit has launched an investigation into the in-custody death. Police said personnel from the county District Attorney's Office and the police department's Professional Standards Unit were also summoned to investigate, consistent with standard procedure.

“We notified the District Attorney’s office, they sent out an investigator who met with us on scene and was there the whole time during the investigation. That’s typical. We also notified our professional standards unit because we had officers involved in the situation, and we want to make sure that we had those bases covered as well so.  A lot of eyeballs out there that evening to make sure we have a really clear and accurate picture of what exactly happened,” said Lt. Reber.