Fairfax officers cleared in man’s opioid-related death; police chief releases bodycam footage

WASHINGTON — Fairfax County prosecutors have cleared police officers in the death of a 31-year-old man who died of a fatal opioid overdose shortly after being taken into custody last summer.

Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler, who addressed reporters Wednesday and released body-worn camera footage of the arrest, said the death of Christopher Paul is a tragic example of the opioid epidemic “which is ravaging our nation and our county.”

The Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney concluded officers involved used the amount of physical force necessary to restrain Paul and that there is no indication the restraint used contributed to his death, Roessler told reporters. Authorities said the overdose-reversing Narcan was administered by fire and rescue crews before Paul was rushed to the hospital.

The nearly 5-minute-long video released by the department shows officers entering the house in the 4300 block of Mission Court in the Willow Oak subdivision in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County on the afternoon of July 26.

They had been called to the house for the report of an overdose.

The video shows Paul, who is naked, stumbling around the house’s living room, grunting, flailing and knocking over furniture. Officers are seen holding back, apparently trying to engage Paul. “Hey, bud, what’s going on, man?” one officer asks. “Chris, what’s happening to man? Talk to me, bud.”

When Paul stumbles and falls over, the officers move in and restrain him on the ground to handcuff him. Later, they’re seen using nylon restrains to stop him from kicking his legs.

Roessler said the video shows officers were not aggressive and attempted to de-escalate the situation.

“This is the training that values human life,” Roessler said. “This did not end with an awful use of deadly force. We cared for this young man and we got him aid … So our training worked here. Unfortunately, opioids killed him.”

After Paul was restrained, personnel from the Fire and Rescue Department administered the overdose-reversing antidote, Narcan, according to Deputy Fire Chief Jason Jenkins. But Paul became unresponsive and was taken to Alexandria Hospital where he died.

“It’s unfortunate that he died from an opioid overdose, but these are the perils that we are facing as law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel throughout this nation,” Roessler said. “Opioids are just killing great people.”

Overall, there have been 621 opioid overdoses in Fairfax County, this year, Roessler said — 62 of them fatal. Last year, 113 people died from opioid overdoses.

The department has begun rolling out a pilot program to equip officers with Narcan, which can be used to reverse opioid overdoses. So far, about 387 officers — out of the about 1,500 officers on the force — have the antidote. In addition, 443 officers are trained in what’s known as “crisis intervention training.”

The officers involved were initially placed on administrative leave as the department investigated but have since returned to duty, Roessler said.

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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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