Three weeks after a Lemoore man died in police custody, local authorities are continuing to investigate the incident that led to his death.
On Dec. 31, the Lemoore Police Department responded to a report of a man trying to break windows at a home in the 1100 block of Pine Court. Police said officer arrived and found other people in the house holding the man on the ground as he kicked and spit on them.
Police said the man, identified as Donald Hill, 30, continued to kick and spit as officers handcuffed him. Hill began vomiting shortly after and stopped breathing as an ambulance arrived. Medical personnel reportedly performed CPR and transported Hill to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Kings County Chief Deputy Coroner Shawn McRae said his office is still waiting for the results of a wide array of toxicology tests. McRae said authorities are testing Hill for numerous substances due to the many variables that could have contributed to Hill’s death.
McRae declined to comment on what specific substances authorities are checking for. McRae said it will likely take another couple of weeks to get the results.
“We’re looking at every possible angle,” McRae said. “The more things you request, the longer it takes.”
McRae said Hill’s death is a “priority case” because of the unknown circumstances of his death and the presence of Lemoore police officers.
Lemoore police Chief Darrell Smith said his department will release more information about the Dec. 31 incident after the sheriff’s office completes its investigation. Smith said it’s unclear how long that will take.
“We’re just kind of in a holding pattern,” Smith said.
The Kings County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case for criminal culpability by all involved parties, including police officers.
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Local law enforcement agencies established the Kings County Multi-Agency Critical Incident Team in mid-2016 to ensure an outside agency investigates all officer-involved shootings that cause serious injury or death, police incidents that result in serious injury or other high-priority incidents.
The protocol includes a rotating schedule of detectives from the Kings County Sheriff’s Office, the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and each of the county’s four police departments.
While the sheriff’s office is handling the criminal investigation, the Lemoore Police Department will complete an administrative investigation to determine whether its officers followed all protocols and policies.
Smith said he could not comment on the status of that investigation.
Kings County’s multi-agency effort seeks to reduce conflicts that could stem from a department investigating its own officers.
Tony Botti, a spokesman for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, said no such agreement exists between Fresno County law enforcement agencies.
“We don’t have one here,” Botti said. “We did throw that idea around in the past, like for officer-involved shootings, but it never came to fruition.”
Botti said the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office would investigate an in-custody death itself. He said the department commonly investigates homicides for smaller departments in the county that are short on resources or expertise.
“If a smaller agency requests that, we will take it over,” Botti said.