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Man dies while being taken into custody in Santa Rosa

A man died early Wednesday as he was taken into custody at a northeast Santa Rosa apartment after two acquaintances told authorities he had been holding them prisoner, Santa Rosa police said.

The man became delusional and violent at the apartment off Montgomery Drive, according to a Southern California man who said he was one of two people held in the residence.

“He was in my face; he was all over the place. This guy made me a nervous wreck,” said Paul Walters, 46, of Riverside County said.

The man appeared to suffer some kind of medical emergency after police confronted him at the apartment, police officials said. An autopsy is scheduled for today, said Sonoma County Sheriff's Lt. Dennis O'Leary.

The Press Democrat is withholding the man's name because O'Leary said they had not yet been able to notify family members, who live outside the area.

Walters said he had just met the man Sunday when the pair joined a mutual acquaintance on a road trip from Palm Springs to Santa Rosa. He said they were helping drive a load of furniture to the apartment off Montgomery Drive in Santa Rosa.

The group apparently arrived in Santa Rosa Monday and were all staying at the first-floor unit at Shadow Creek apartments.

At about 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, the man returned to the apartment in a violent state, according to Walters. He said he suspects the man was on drugs.

“One minute he was throwing stuff at me, then he'd say, 'Dude, I'm sorry,' ” Walters said.

The encounter continued into the night. Walters said the man, whom he described as bulky in stature, ordered him to take his clothes off and stood between him and the door.

A third man, who rents the apartment and was identified by Walters as Homer Ramsey, apparently was sleeping in a bedroom through much of the encounter. Ramsey declined to comment.

Walters said he was able to grab a cellphone and get out through the front door shortly before 3 a.m. when the man went into the bedroom. Walters said he called police and was outside when officers entered the unit.

Santa Rosa police said officers were able to arrange the release of the second man, but the suspect became combative and refused to follow instructions. An altercation ensued involving at least two officers, though the suspect was eventually taken into custody.

But he then suffered some apparent medical emergency and succumbed, police said.

Officers used CPR to try to revive him while awaiting medical personnel, who attempted further life-saving efforts before pronouncing him dead, police said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident because of a county-wide protocol that calls for an outside agency to investigate in-custody deaths.

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