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Lemoore Police Department

LEMOORE — A 30-year-old man died Saturday after he reportedly tried to break windows at a house and spit on police officers, the Lemoore Police Department said.

The Kings County Coroner’s Office identified the man as Donald Hill of Lemoore.

Around 7:45 p.m., officers responded to a home in the 1100 block of Pine Court for a man who was out of control and trying to break windows. When officers arrived, police said, other people in the house were holding Hill on the ground while he kicked and spit at them.

Police said Hill began kicking and spitting at officers as they handcuffed him. Hill reportedly began to vomit shortly after being handcuffed. Officers called an ambulance, which arrived as Hill stopped breathing. Police said medical personnel performed CPR and transported Hill to Adventist Medical Center in Hanford where he was pronounced dead.

Investigation of this incident was turned over to the Kings County Multi-Agency Critical Incident Team.

Lemoore police Chief Darrell Smith said this is the first time the critical incident team has been activated since its inception about six months ago. Smith said the team consists of a rotating schedule of detectives from each of the county’s four police departments, the Kings County Sheriff’s Office and the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.

Smith said the critical incident team ensures an outside agency will handle any criminal investigations regarding officer-involved shootings that cause serious injury or death, police incidents that result in serious injury or other high-priority incidents.

“I think there is a lot of credibility in not investigating your own [officers],” Smith said.

Detectives with the Kings County Sheriff’s Office will investigate any criminal culpability in the Dec. 31 incident for all involved parties, including Lemoore police officers.

Smith said the Lemoore Police Department will still handle an administrative investigation to make sure its officers followed all department protocols and policies.

Chief Deputy Coroner Shawn McRae said a post-mortem examination for Hill has been scheduled for Wednesday. It’s unclear how long it will take to determine Hill’s exact cause of death. McRae said that because of Hill’s age and the circumstances of his death officials will likely have start at “square one” with the exam and run a full panel of toxicology tests.

“That’s the time consuming part,” McRae said.

According to the California Department of Justice, Kings County law enforcement agencies rarely have suspects die during the arrest process or while being transported to jail. There was only one such death reported between 2005 and 2014.

On June 22, 2007, a member of the Hanford Police Department’s Office SWAT team shot and killed Abel Curiel Gonzalez, 44, after Gonzalez fired a gun at officers. Authorities had surrounded Gonzalez in a field on Iona Avenue between 13th and 14th avenues after he shot and killed his live-in girlfriend Maria Zamarripa, 45, the previous evening.

An investigation by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office found that the officer had acted in self-defense.

Nearby Tulare County reported seven arrest-related deaths during the same 10-year period. Fresno County reported 25. 

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or meiman@HanfordSentinel.com.

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