Prosecutor: no police misconduct in pepper spray case

(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) -- There is no evidence of improper police conduct in the death of a Marlboro man who was hit with pepper spray, said First Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Lawrence West.

Authorities yesterday released more details about the death of Mitchel Spero, 31, who stopped breathing after police used pepper spray on him because he was allegedly trying to smash windows at a firehouse.

West called Spero's death a tragedy, but said police apparently did nothing wrong. Monroe Patrolmen Ray Helge, 38, and Chris Mullen, 32, were the first two cops to arrive at Central Monroe Fire Department shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday, West said.

Police were called because Spero was apparently exhibiting bizarre behavior - he was loud and using a metal milk crate to pound on the windows of the firehouse at Route 522 and Schoolhouse Road, said West.

During the incident, the officers used pepper spray two times to try to subdue Spero, who was resisting police, said West. They handcuffed him and placed him into a patrol car, but he broke the windows of the police cruiser, said West.

The cops called an ambulance because of Spero's behavior. Spero didn't exhibit any signs of respiratory problems until after he was placed in the rig, authorities said. In the ambulance, he stopped breathing, and rescue workers couldn't revive him. He was pronounced dead at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick at 12:48 a.m. Monday.

No obvious cause of death was found during Monday's autopsy. Toxicological test results normally take about 10 weeks, but authorities have asked for them to be expedited and are hoping results will be back in about six weeks, said West. Authorities yesterday were still trying to determine why Spero went to the firehouse. Spero lived with his parents in the Morganville section of Marlboro and worked as a mechanic at the East Brunswick Buick Pontiac GMC dealership on Route 18.

Helge joined the Monroe force in August 1986 after working about four years as a dispatcher there, said Chief Richard Garvey.

(iSyndicate; Asbury Park Press; Nov. 15, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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