Suspect Dies in Police Custody, Classified a Homicide

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Misael Melgar was arrested two months ago after he allegedly attacked several people on the streets of downtown Honolulu. Officers put him in a cell. He never made it out alive.

The Medical Examiner's Office is classifying the 26 year-old's death a homicide.

"I think it's an interpretation of 'homicide,'" detective Alex Garcia, SHOPO Oahu chair, said. "The Medical Examiner's interpretation is more of a forensic rather than a criminal because, unfortunately, the guy died of unnatural causes."

Officers were called to North Pauahi Street the morning of December 5th. Investigators say Misael Melgar was on a rampage, assaulting several people in the area.

Police finally nabbed the suspect on North Hotel Street, after they shot pepper spray on him. Officers say Melgar appeared to be high on ice, and was extremely combative.

"People who induce a lot of ice, that there's a heating of the body that causes them to over-react, and their heart goes off," Garcia said. "So we learn not to have them lay down when they're handcuffed. We have them sit up."

But something happened. The suspect came to H.P.D.'s main cellblock. Officers later found him unresponsive in his cell.

According to the M.E.'s office, Melgar died from "crystal methamphetamine-induced agitated delirium." But his condition was complicated by being in a "prolonged prone position during legal intervention." The manner of death is "homicide."

"Once they're in the cell, and they lie down or whatever they do, nature takes its own course," Garcia said.

The officers remain under investigation.

"I think they did an exceptional job," Garcia said. "It's just unfortunate that, again, the drugs overcame his physical condition."

The Medical Examiner's office says it puts each death into one of five categories -- natural, accidental, suicide, homicide or undetermined.

The M.E. who performed Melgar's autopsy says a case may be classified as a homicide if someone else's actions contributed to the death. She says the M.E.'s classification does not imply intent.