Man dies of overdose as Tucson police respond to prowler call
Magnus: Tally of OD deaths is 'staggering'
A 29-year-old Tucson man died of an apparent overdose Tuesday morning as police responded to a report of a backyard prowler, officials said.
Jesus Gilberto Gutierrez was declared dead at the scene after Tucson Police Department officers and Tucson Fire Department personnel performed CPR on him.
TPD Chief Chris Magnus announced the death Tuesday afternoon, under a new mandate from the City Council to provide timely information about in-custody deaths instituted in the wake of recent deaths that were not made public for months. The family of Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez, whose death was not revealed to the public for two months, until TucsonSentinel.com broke the news, filed a wrongful-death claim against the city Tuesday, seeking $19 million in compensation on behalf of his young daughter.
"An overdose is no less tragic than any other death," the police chief said of Gutierrez on Tuesday, noting that there have been 213 recorded OD deaths in Pima County through July 15, which he called "staggering."
Around 2:28 a.m., an "elderly gentleman" in Midtown called 911 to report a "unknown man" on his back porch, who was moving furniture and talking to himself, and possibly under the influence, Magnus said.
Officers were dispatched to the report of a prowler at 2:30 a.m., arriving nine minutes later, Magnus said, indicating he was providing an "approximate timeline of events."
Three officers were first on the scene, with two searching the backyard and another keeping watch on the front of the house on East Waverly Street, near North Craycroft Road, he said.
According to Magnus and as seen in police bodycam footage shown to the press on Tuesday, the officers quickly found a man lying on the ground next to the covered porch of the home, next to an overturned picnic bench.
"Hey, Tucson police, can you hear me?," a male officer asked.
Gutierrez was "moving but not responsive," Magnus said.
The officers put the man, who was on his back, on his side, in the recovery position, to help with his breathing, which Magnus described as "labored."
"Hey, bud, what's your name?," an officer asked.
The officers, after assessing Gutierrez, radioed for TFD to dispatch EMS to the scene. They handcuffed Gutierrez as a preemptive measure, and administered two doses of Narcan, to help counteract a potential opioid overdose. The officer radioed again for TFD to "step it up based on his deteriorating condition," Magnus said.
The Narcan had no effect.
"Stay with us, OK? We're going to help you out, man," a female officer said.
Gutierrez was not responding to sternal rubs — pressure between his ribs — performed by the officers.
The officers determined that Gutierrez "had no pulse," and moved him to the front of the house, into better light and closer to the street, where they removed his handcuffs and began performing compression CPR at 2:50 a.m.
Fire Department personnel arrived at 2:52 a.m. and took over CPR. Gutierrez was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later.
Magnus refused to discuss the deaths of Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez and Damien Alvarado, revealed last month after TucsonSentinel.com's reporting, citing a pending report by a "Sentinel Event Review Board" about those incidents.
The police chief cautioned that the information about the death of Gutierrez "is all very preliminary at this point," and that the investigations are ongoing, but said, "what I'm seeing so far, I'm impressed by."
The officers involved "followed our protocols; they called for EMS right away," he said. "They demonstrated compassion for him."
"No force was used by the officers," he said.
While TPD allowed reporters to view the bodycam footage, they did not immediately provide a copy of the video to the press.
Magnus said the officers were correct to handcuff Gutierrez, despite him not being responsive. "They don't know when they first come into contact, if he's sleeping." And with Narcan, "individuals can become combative when they come to," he said.
There was "drug paraphernalia" found in the back yard, along with a "medication used to treat opioid addiction," Magnus said.
The man's family was notified of his death prior to the public release of information, he said.
"We're sharing this video to be as transparent as possible, not because we identified any violation of our policies," he said.
Magnus said that there have been more overdose deaths recorded in the two weeks since the total of 213 for the year to date was reached on July 15, and that county health officials are projecting 300 such deaths are likely this year.
While Narcan was not effective in this incident, the counteractive agent "only works on opioids; it has no bad effects even if it doesn't work," Magnus said.
Of the 90 times TPD officers have administered Narcan, they've had 26 "saves," he said.
Magnus said he was disclosing the information under a policy he set last month to release bodycam video and information about in-custody deaths "within 72 hours" whenever possible. He did not mention the mandate, passed by Mayor Regina Romero and the City Council, that TPD provide "immediate notification" to top officials and the public of all in-custody deaths. The elected officials made that move after Magnus did not set up such a departmental policy.
The chief, Deputy Chief Chad Kazmar, and three assistant chiefs all responded to the scene of Tuesday's death, Magnus said.
The incident will be reviewed, as has been TPD's practice, under a criminal investigation and an internal administrative probe, Magnus said.
This original news reporting was partly supported by the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, which awarded Sentinel Editor Dylan Smith a Brechner Reporting Fellowship to pursue in-depth journalism about government secrecy.