Death of man in Bennington Police holding cell ruled an accidental overdose
The death of a man in a holding cell at the Bennington Police Department has been ruled an accidental drug overdose, according to the Chief Medical Examiner's office.
Darrel Jones, 33, of New York and Pennsylvania, died on March 23 from a mixture of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine, according to his death certificate – which was released on Monday.
Jones and two other people were taken into custody around 3:50 PM after Bennington officers carried out a search warrant related to a drug investigation, Vermont State Police said in March. Jones was placed in a holding cell and found unresponsive around 4:40 PM, police say.
Bennington police performed life-saving measures and called emergency services, but they were unable to revive Jones, who was pronounced dead at 5:19 PM at the police station, according to state police.
VSP say their investigation found that Jones concealed a large amount of drugs when he was taken into custody, and then took those drugs while in the holding cell.
There was no indication that Bennington Police used force on Jones, VSP said in a press release from March.
State police have forwarded their investigation to the Bennington County state's attorney for review.
More from Vermont Public: Investigation Finds Bennington Police Discriminated In Response To Kiah Morris Case
The death of Jones, a Black man, came as the Bennington Police Department has faced criticism in recent years for its practices, including allegations of racial bias and using unconstitutional interrogation tactics.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont sued the department earlier this year alleged that Bennington officers pressured witnesses to name John Chinnici as an accomplice in an armed robbery that took place in January 2016, even though he didn't match witness descriptions of the suspects and there wasn't any evidence tying him to the robbery.
The department also paid $30,000 in 2020 to settle claims of systemic racial profiling in another lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Vermont, and in 2021, two former Bennington residents filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, alleging numerous instances of racially-motivated policing.
The town of Bennington in 2021 paid $137,000 to former state representative Kiah Morris and her family to settle claims that the Bennington Police Department didn’t adequately investigate racially motivated threats, according to the Associated Press. Morris, who was the only Black lawmaker in Montpelier at the time, resigned due to the harassment. Former Attorney General TJ Donovan declined to file criminal charges in the case, citing free speech protections in the constitution.
A review of the Bennington Police Department published in 2020 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that the department there was a lack of trust between the community and police, that officer’s often had a “warrior mentality” when interacting with residents and that the department needed to update a number of policies and practices.
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