Family members of a man who died in police custody are questioning why their loved one died.
Clifton Armstrong, 38, died about 9 p.m. Wednesday after police tried to subdue him outside of a home at 1421 NW 99 in northwest Oklahoma City, police said.
Police are investigating his death.
The home belongs to the man's mother, Velencia Armstrong-Maiden, family members said. Her son lived in the same neighborhood.
Police and firefighters were called to the home in response to a residential panic alarm.
About the same time, Armstrong called 911 to report people in his house were trying to kill him, Oklahoma City police Capt. Dexter Nelson said.
The first two officers who arrived determined Armstrong was delusional, possibly suffering from mental illness and in need of emergency detention for treatment, Nelson said.
His family members said Armstrong was not mentally ill. He had a drug problem and was addicted to meth, they said.
According to police, family members helped the officers take Armstrong outside.
He became physically uncooperative and stripped off his clothes, Nelson said.
Armstrong's grandmother, Jean Lawrence Griffin, was at the home at the time.
Lawrence Griffin said she and Armstrong's mother were ordered inside while police placed Armstrong in restraints on the ground. Lawrence Griffin said she kept going onto the porch to try and see what was going on, she said.
Then it got quiet.
“He had stopped struggling,” she said.
Police told her they were handling it.
“I didn't know they were going to handle it to the death,” she said.
Officers had placed Armstrong in handcuffs and used belts to restrain his leg movement. The “maximum restraint hobble system” entails the use of a belt system that stops combative people from kicking, Nelson said.
“It keeps them from separating their legs so they can't kick or run,” Nelson said.
Paramedics with the Emergency Medical Services Authority performed CPR on Armstrong.
Armstrong's family members said they saw grass up his nose. They worry his oxygen supply was cut off, said his sister, Brigette Armstrong.
The state medical examiner's office will determine the cause and manner of Armstrong's death.
Officers on leave
Oklahoma City police performed a demonstration of the proper procedure for placing a person in “maximum restraint” Thursday at the police training center, 800 N Portland. In the demonstration, the officer placed in restraint belts turned her head to the side. Two officers worked to restrain her. One placed his knee across her upper back and held her handcuffed hands in place while the other officer applied belts. One belt restricted the feet. A second belt was secured around the waist. The two belts were connected to restrict leg movement.
Police have used the hobble restraint system for years, Nelson said. There are several applications of the system. An investigation will determine how the restraint system was used and whether it was used properly, Nelson said.
All of the involved officers were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigations, Nelson said.
The officers involved have been identified as Jeffery Dutton, Gregory Franklin, Mohammed Tabaia and Daniel Holtzclaw.
It does not appear a Taser was used, although that remains under investigation, Nelson said.
About the victim
At the time of his death, Armstrong was on probation for a 2008 burglary conviction, state corrections department records show. In the mid-1990s he was sentenced to five years probation on three charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and two charges of concealing stolen property, records show.
His sister said Thursday her brother had problems. Besides a drug addiction, he did not have custody of his children. She adopted two of her brother's children in 2007. A third child is with the mother's family, she said.
But she said her brother was loving and strong.
“I was his best friend,” she said.
Family members gathered at the home Thursday to mourn, flipping through albums that show Armstrong in the years before a drug addiction took hold.
In one, he is a young child with a beaming smile in his Boy Scout uniform.
“I loved him,” his sister said.