A confrontation with police may have left Robin Leander Howard so badly injured that his broken ribs and punctured lungs ultimately caused him to die of acute pneumonia, according to an autopsy report released Monday.
The public was not notified of the case until nine days after his death, and his family says they were not told about it until four days after the 54-year-old man died. Police dispute that claim.
The confrontation with police came after the 5-foot-8, 138-pound Howard led police on a short chase.
According to a police dispatch log, a patrol car tried to stop Howard in his mother's Lincoln Town Car at roughly 1:30 p.m. June 19. Officers said Howard led them on a chase that ended in the 1400 block of Monticello Court, only about 150 yards from the small home he shared with his mother.
What happened after police caught up with the lanky, Howard remains a mystery.
Officers Jeff Coffey and Doug Grady, who were involved in the altercation with Howard, have been on restricted duty “for some time,” said Capt. Dexter Nelson, the department's spokesman.
“Restricted duty means we're getting some work out of them, but they're not dealing with the public,” Nelson said.
“They may be working as a report taker … answering phones … something that doesn't involve direct contact with the public.”
Nelson said Howard's death has been investigated as a homicide and that the criminal investigation has been complete for some time.
“We've tried to present it to the DA's office, but he will not take an incomplete case,” he said. “We're waiting on the ME to release that final report before moving forward.”
David Slane, an attorney representing Howard's family, said he doesn't understand why the police haven't released more information about the case.
Slane said police routinely arrest people and charge them with murder “months before the ME's report comes out.”
“I'm concerned about them playing fast and loose with the findings … and I'll say it publicly,” Slane said.
“I think they want to be able to respond to what the ME says … I think they want to be able to respond to the injuries if they think they're justifiable.”
Slane also criticized police for not communicating with the man's family, saying that investigators have provided little comfort for Howard's surviving relatives.
According to the autopsy report, Howard was “alert and oriented” when he was admitted to the hospital June 19.
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