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Bodycam released from in-custody death of Waukegan man; officers cleared of wrongdoing

The state’s attorney has cleared Waukegan police of any wrongdoing and released bodycam video in the death of Avion Cotton, the man who died after swallowing drugs while he was running from officers in June.

Avion Cotton, 31, of Waukegan, died June 27, 2019 shortly after being arrested by Waukegan police following a foot pursuit.

Cotton had multiple white bags containing fentanyl-laced cocaine in his stomach and esophagus, Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper said, adding that the man had no signs of trauma.

Toxicology testing showed lethal levels of fentanyl, cocaine and heroin in his system.

The incident occurred while Waukegan police were conducting a narcotics search warrant in the 600 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Waukegan.

Cotton arrived to the house and ran when he saw police. He ingested the baggies of drugs and tripped when his shorts fell as he was running, according to a letter written by Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim.

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Bodycam video shows Avion Cotton being taken into custody by Waukegan police on June 27, 2019.

While being taken into custody, Cotton continued to chew the drugs and refused to spit it out, Waukegan police said.

Bodycam video shows that officers did not use a taser on Cotton and they pleaded with him to spit out the drugs, Nerheim said. Officers administered Narcan and called for an ambulance.

A Waukegan Fire Department ambulance transported the man to Vista Medical Center East where he was pronounced dead.

“In short, it is apparent that Mr. Cotton died as a result of his ingestion of Fentanyl, Cocaine, and Heroin. I do not find that any of your officers acted contrary to the law and consider this matter closed,” Nerheim said in a letter to Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles.

The Illinois State Police and Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office conducted the investigation.

Click here to read the full letter by the state’s attorney. Click here to watch all five bodycam videos.


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