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NYC police boss says officers' response appropriate in custody death of man high on drugs

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NEW YORK — It appears police officers behaved appropriately when they put a protective body wrap on a drug user who later died in custody, New York City's police commissioner said Monday.

Ronald Singleton's death was ruled a homicide on Friday by the city medical examiner's office, which cited physical restraint by police as a factor, along with severe intoxication from the hallucinogenic drug PCP, heart disease and obesity.

Singleton, 45, was acting erratically in a taxi July 13 when police were called to the scene. Police Commissioner William Bratton said the taxi driver was "scared to death" and the officers were trying to protect Singleton from hurting himself and others. He stressed the term "homicide" is a medical definition and doesn't mean an officer did something wrong.

Singleton, who was not placed under arrest, was on his way to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation when he went into cardiac arrest, authorities said.

Prosecutors are investigating, which is standard protocol involving a police death.

Singleton's death came four days before Eric Garner died on Staten Island after an officer placed him in a chokehold. The 43-year-old asthmatic father of six could be heard on an amateur video shouting "I can't breathe!" as an officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. The officer was stripped of his gun and badge after Garner's death.

The Staten Island district attorney is assembling a special grand jury next month to hear evidence in the Garner case.

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