Authorities launch probe in connection
with man's death following SFPD arrest
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
January 20, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Authorities have launched a multi-departmental
how a 45-year-old man died Thursday while being detained by two
According to police, Herbert Tyrone Watt died after he choked
on a golf-ball sized bag of crack cocaine. Witnesses including
Watt's girlfriend, however, are disputing the department's version
The incident began around 4 p.m. Thursday when officers pulled
over a red car at the intersection of Ralston and Randolph streets
in the city's Ingleside Heights neighborhood.
The traffic stop was initiated because his red car had only paper
license plates, according to police Sgt. Steve Mannina.
Officers searched him, found a bag of crack cocaine, and put
it on the patrol car, Mannina said. Watt then began to struggle
with the officers and he grabbed the bag and shoved it in his
mouth, according to Mannina.
Officers attempted to dislodge the bag of crack cocaine from
the man's throat by smacking the man on the back but the emergency
A nearby resident, who disputes the police account, taped much
of the incident with an audiocassette recorder. It begins just
before Watt begins to struggle with police.
One of the unidentified officers yelled, "Stop fighting,"
and a woman's voice comes in next. "What did he do?"
The tape continued with the officers asking, "You got anything
in your mouth?" and finally, "You've got a whole lot
of crack, and if you put it in your mouth, you're not going to
The woman's voice on the tape was that of Watt's girlfriend.
She was in the passenger seat of the car when the incident took
place and disputes the police claim that Watt, a parolee, was
A lawyer for the girlfriend, San Jose-based attorney Doug Allen,
said he is researching the case for any signs of foul play.
Richard Stypmann, the man who taped the exchange, also took pictures
of the incident. One photo shows an officer straddling Watt as
he lay face down on the pavement. Other pictures show medical
workers assisting Watt.
Stypmann said the officers punched Watt repeatedly in the chest,
which caused him to die. Mannina, however, said the officers were
just trying to save the man's life by performing CPR.
He was taken to Seton Medical Center in Daly City where he was
pronounced dead. Since the hospital is in San Mateo County, investigators
will be waiting on the coroner in that county to release a report.
The police homicide division, the department's internal affairs
division, the district attorney's office and the Office of Citizen
Complaints are all expected to conduct investigations into the
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