Man dies in police custody during traffic stop

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 2:53 PM EDT
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WYTHE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia State Police and the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the death of a man who collapsed while in custody.

John Brown, 49, died at the scene of a traffic stop Friday.

At 9:32 p.m. June 24, 2022, deputies were called to the community of Ivanhoe about a driver who may have been intoxicated, according to the sheriff’s office. The deputies stopped a Chevrolet being driven the wrong direction on Painters Hill Road. A deputy identified Nickie L. Vaughan, 47, as the driver, and “noticed her uncontrollable movements” while speaking with her, according to the sheriff’s office. He also noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle.

The deputy asked Vaughan to step out of the vehicle to conduct a field sobriety test, and reported finding in her hand a bag of crystal substance consistent to be methamphetamine. Vaughan was then detained.

Brown was the passenger in the vehicle, and was asked to step out of the vehicle for a search by deputies, and he said he had been drinking. The search revealed no narcotics in the vehicle. Brown was arrested for public intoxication and put in the back of a patrol car, with the door closed. Deputies, soon after, heard Brown kicking the door of the patrol car, and he told them he was suffocating. They took him out of the car and stood him up on his feet, when he collapsed and started shaking, according to deputies. The deputies called for paramedics, thinking he was having a seizure. Brown stopped breathing and CPR was conducted by deputies, and paramedics administered Narcan, but Brown was declared dead.

Vaughan, the driver of the stopped Chevrolet, told deputies there had been methamphetamine in the car, and she suspected Brown had swallowed it so he would not get caught with it.

Police say the deputies’ body camera footage will be reviewed to determine if or when Brown had swallowed anything during the traffic stop. an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Vaughan is charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, Possession of Schedule 1 or 2 narcotic, Refusal of a blood or breath test and Reckless Driving.

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