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Police Cleared in Inmate’s Death

An inquiry into the death of a 43-year-old homeless man while in the custody of Laguna Beach police found no evidence of criminal negligence, the district attorney’s office announced Tuesday, Dec. 10.

A coroner’s pathologist determined that Stephen Gregory Gage died of pneumonia and organ failure and detected the presence of multiple drugs in his body, according to findings detailed in a Dec. 9 letter to Laguna’s police Chief Paul Workman.

Officer Greg Hiler arrested Gage for public intoxication on April 8, responding to a 7 a.m. complaint from an Ocean Way homeowner about a man digging through trash cans, the letter says.

Though Gage did not exhibit signs of a medical emergency, says the report, he complained of pain during booking and was taken to Laguna’s Mission Hospital less than three hours after his arrest.  A doctor diagnosed Gage as “critically ill,” experiencing multiple organ failure, sepsis and other maladies. He was admitted to the ICU and released from police custody, the report says.

Over the next 24 hours as Gage’s condition deteriorated, he was transferred to Mission Viejo and doctors intervened with CPR in three instances to resuscitate him, ultimately unsuccessfully, the report says.

“There is no evidence of foul play or neglect,” wrote Ebrahim Baytieh, senior deputy district attorney.

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