Police: June in-custody death was result of opioid overdose

A police officer entering the house

A screenshot from the body camera footage shared by the FCPD at Wednesday’s press conference.

A 31-year-old man from the Telegraph Road area who died after being taken into police custody in June succumbed to an opioid overdose, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler announced at a Wednesday press conference.

Christopher Paul, who lived in the 4300 block of Mission Court (see map), became unresponsive after being restrained by police officers who responded to a 911 call for an overdose the afternoon of June 26. Paul later died at a local hospital.

Roessler said the use of force used by officers during the incident was found to be appropriate for the situation, according to an investigation by the Commonwealth’s Attorney office.

“There was no indication that the restraints used contributed to his death,” said Roessler, who praised his officers’ response to the incident, saying they followed their training.

During the press conference Roessler played body camera footage from the incident. One officer, who was part of the FCPD’s body-worn camera pilot program at the Mount Vernon station, was among the officers who responded. That officer was the second to enter the house, and the footage shows — with some redactions — Paul’s action prior to being restrained and the officers’ attempts to deescalate the situation.

Paul, who was naked during the episode, is in distress throughout the clip, seemingly unable to speak clearly and throwing himself to the floor and furniture in the house before being restrained.

The body camera footage, which may be difficult for some to watch, can be viewed on YouTube.

Roessler said certain parts  of the video were redacted out of respect to Paul’s family as well as for HIPAA-related reasons. Roessler also noted that an electronic control weapon (taser) seen carried by an officer in the video was never used on Paul.

Roessler spent a portion of the press conference emphasizing the damage that opioid addiction does, and provided statistics on overdoses in the county in 2017 (213 fatal, 872 total) and 2018 (65 fatal, 621 total).

“This event is an example of the opioid epidemic, which is ravaging our nation and our county, unfortunately,” Roessler said.

The fire department personnel who responded to the scene did administer Narcan, a drug which can reverse overdoses, a spokesman for the department said at the press conference. None of the responding police officers on the scene had Narcan, Roessler said, but since August officers have been given Narcan training. The FCPD says 387 officers are now equipped with it.