Investigators are looking into whether a jolt from an electrical stun gun while he was in police custody or the ingestion of illegal drugs was the key factor in the death of Charles A. “Ditty” Baker Jr., who was rushed from the Jamestown Police Station lockup after he suffered a seizure there and later died in WCA Hospital.
Chautauqua County District Attorney David F. Foley said Monday he is planning to view video of Baker fighting with police officers as he was being booked Saturday afternoon in the police station. One of the officers subdued the 30-year-old Jamestown resident with a single shot from a Taser electrical stun gun.
“I have instructed my investigator to collect all the information from the Jamestown Police Department, including video footage of the initial encounter in the department,” Foley said.
State Commission of Correction investigators also are beginning an independent review of Baker’s death, a commission official said Monday. Jamestown police said they notified the commission within six hours of Baker’s death, fulfilling a legal requirement under state law.
Police initially declined to release details of the incident, but in offering a fuller account on Monday, they said they welcomed the investigations by Foley and the state commission.
Baker, a former Buffalo resident, initially was detained Saturday when a vehicle in which he was a passenger was stopped for a minor traffic violation at about 12:14 p.m. and the driver gave police a false name. While sitting in the back of a police patrol car, Baker allegedly tried to dispose of several bags of suspected cocaine.
“In an attempt to destroy physical evidence, Baker did smear the substance that was later determined to be cocaine on the seat of the patrol car,” Jamestown Police Capt. Robert F. Samuelson said.
Later, at the police garage, a bag of cocaine fell to the ground and Baker allegedly tried to prevent one of the arresting officers from retrieving it by stepping on “the substance and the officer’s hand,” Samuelson said.
Inside the booking area of the city jail at about 1:10 p.m., yet another bag of cocaine fell from Baker, the captain said.
“Baker then became physically combative in the booking room and had to be subdued with the use of an electronic control device. Baker was brought under control after a single deployment,” Samuelson said.
But because Baker continued to behave in an agitated manner, the captain said, he was placed in a jail restraint chair in order to prevent injury to himself and the officers.
Samuelson said there was no truth to reports that Baker had demanded a drink of water and was denied, prompting his outburst.
“At 3:09 p.m. the prisoner was then taken to a cell to utilize the restroom,” the captain continued. “The prisoner was secured into a holding cell for further observation. Within seconds of being placed into the holding cell, Baker began to suffer an apparent seizure.”
At that point, emergency medical personnel were summoned and Baker was examined and appeared responsive, according to police. At 3:23 p.m., he was transported by ambulance to WCA Hospital in Jamestown.
“At about 4:55 p.m., it was advised that Baker had suffered a second apparent seizure while at WCA Hospital. At 5:25 p.m., the Police Department was advised that Baker had been pronounced dead,” Samuelson said.
An autopsy was conducted Monday at the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office but toxicology results, which include testing for drugs, are not expected to be available for weeks, authorities said.
Foley said, “I don’t think we’ll be able to proceed with any sort of decision on the cause of death until the final autopsy report is prepared and that will include toxicology.”
Baker has served three state prison sentences for selling drugs and most recently was released last June, according to state records.
A friend of Baker’s said that Baker was a devoted father to his young daughter, Nevaeh, and was in the process of getting his life together.
“He was a great father and now his little girl is going to grow up not knowing her daddy,” the friend said, adding that she did not believe the account offered by police.
Samuelson said that the department’s administrators already have conducted a preliminary review of the reports and video and at this time “there does not appear to be any violations of any rules and regulations of the Jamestown Police Department.”
The woman who was driving the car Baker was in at the time of his arrest was identified as Cindy S. Frank, 40, of Jamestown. Frank was charged with false personation.