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Intoxicated Calif. man dies while in custody

By John Cote
The San Francisco Chronicle

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — A 29-year-old Redwood City man died after Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies handcuffed him after a New Year's Eve party, authorities said Wednesday.

Irving R. Mendez, who had a 2-year-old son and worked at Home Depot in San Carlos, was handcuffed after relatives tried to prevent him from driving away from a family gathering in San Jose where he had been drinking, said his cousin, David Perez, who was at the party.

The cause of death is under investigation, sheriff's officials said. The county coroner's office declined to release any information about the case.

Perez said his cousin was "a pretty heavy man" but had no known medical problems. Deputies said Mendez was 5-foot-6 and weighed about 250 pounds.

Sheriff's deputies were called about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday to a report of a disturbance on the 100 block of Mountain View Avenue in San Jose, authorities said. Deputies arrived to find family members trying to hold Mendez down, according to sheriff's officials. A deputy handcuffed him, the sheriff's office said.

Perez, however, said his cousin had tripped on a curb and was already passed out and snoring when deputies arrived and handcuffed him.

Later, a deputy removed his metal cuffs and replaced them with plastic ones, Perez said. Both times Mendez was handcuffed, deputies rolled him onto his stomach and then onto his back. Each time they did so, Mendez hit the back of his head on the pavement, Perez said.

"It wasn't until after he hit his head that he started having trouble breathing," Perez said. A deputy put a spoon in Mendez's mouth to try to prevent him from choking on his tongue and paramedics were called, Perez said.

Sgt. Don Morrissey, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said he hadn't seen the investigative reports and couldn't confirm Perez's account.

Mendez was taken by ambulance to San Jose Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead about 3:50 a.m.

It could take weeks to determine the cause of death following an autopsy and toxicology tests, officials said.

Copyright 2008 San Francisco Chronicle

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