Man who died in Kentucky police custody had heart condition, meth in blood, examiner says

A man who died while in Kentucky police custody last month had methamphetamine in his blood and a prior heart condition — both of which contributed to his death, Kentucky State Police said in a news release Tuesday.

The Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Clarence Wilkerson’s official cause of death was acute methamphetamine intoxication, state police said in a news release.

Wilkerson died March 4 while in the custody of the Ashland Police Department. The bystander video — which sparked local criticism of how the police handled the incident — showed Wilkerson suffering from health issues while being put into the back of a patrol car.

Wilkerson had methamphetamine, amphetamines and THC in his blood, KSP said Tuesday. He also had a prior heart condition which “included congestive heart failure, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes,” the police press release continued. Law enforcement previously said he had been pursued and detained on outstanding 2017 misdemeanor charges.

Ashland Police Department officers are not equipped with body-worn cameras, KSP said in response to an open records request filed by the Herald-Leader asking for access to any bodycam video from the incident.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others who died in incidents with police, said in March that he had been retained by Wilkerson’s family.

A few days after his death, members of Wilkerson’s family told the Daily Independent in Ashland that Wilkerson had a heart condition that required a catheterization in his late 20s. Doctors told the Wilkerson family had no pulse when he arrived at the hospital.

In online posts, family and community members said they wouldn’t let the incident go “unnoticed” and would fight for justice.

The Ashland Police officers who were on the scene of Wilkerson’s arrest were John McCormick, Chris Brislin and Tony Floyd, state police said.

Taylor Six contributed to this report. This story may be updated.

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