SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Shreveport police confirmed the identity of the man who died shortly after being involved in a fight with officers Saturday night, and say an investigation has been launched into his death.
44-year-old Jerome Dexter Christmas was reportedly approached by police after officers responded to a call about a man walking down Highland Avenue, stripping down to his underwear. It happened just after 6:00 p.m. Saturday in 1100 block of Highland Avenue in Shreveport.
When officers approached the man, they say he began to fight with them and had to be restrained. Police say the man was not responding to their orders.
However, at least 7 witnesses who say they saw the whole thing, telling KSLA News 12 that officers used excessive force while trying to subdue the man.
"That man laid down on the ground on his own free will, when the other two officers came, he was already down and they started tasing that man, when he was already down on the ground," claimed one witness, who didn't want to be identified.
"When the other officer pulled up, he started beating that man all in the legs, several times, when he wouldn't stop jerking from moving, he started beating him at the top of his head with his billy club," the witness said.
Those witnesses claim officers began to perform CPR on the man when he appeared to stop breathing.
"As I got closer to the situation, I saw the guy laying on the ground, they were pumping his chest and everything like that," said another witness.
Police say the man was unconscious and was rushed to the VA Medical Center, where police say Christmas died Saturday night.
Caddo Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma says an autopsy was conducted Sunday morning. Dr. Thoma says the preliminary investigation indicates the man died of natural causes. Dr. Thoma explained Christmas suffered from cardiac arrest, while being restrained by police. The coroner believes Christmas' cardiac arrest likely happened because he was having a heat stroke. He says there were no signs of significant trauma that would cause death.
Final autopsy results will be available in 3 to 4 weeks.
Cpl. Marcus Hines with the Shreveport Police Department says, "There was a struggle with the individual and again officers are trained to us force, to use the appropriate amount of force given the situation and the totality of those circumstances involved in that situation. So there was force used in order to get the combative subject into police custody. Again, this is still very early in the investigative process."
Hines says the four officers involved in the arrest have been placed on paid administrative leave in accordance with departmental policy as the investigation continues. One of them was also injured in the struggle after he partially tased himself accidentally.
Stay with KSLA News 12 on air and online as more information becomes available on this developing story.