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DEA stalls death investigation, LAPD says [Google+ hangout]

December 21, 2012 | 11:50 am

A Los Angeles Police Department investigation into the death of a drug suspect shortly after he was arrested in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operation has been effectively stalled for two years by the DEA, which has refused to allow its agents to cooperate.

Times reporter Joel Rubin will join City Editor Shelby Grad in a Google+ hangout at 1:30 p.m. PST to discuss the investigation. Without assistance from the DEA, the LAPD cannot determine how the man's fatal injuries were inflicted, according to documents reviewed by The Times.

LIVE DISCUSSION: Join us at 1:30 p.m.

An autopsy found that the suspect's ribs had been fractured in 21 places, and coroner's officials concluded that the injuries were caused by "blunt force." The fractures led to internal bleeding, which ultimately killed the man, the coroner found.

The LAPD believes DEA agents may have caused the injuries when they placed the suspect on his stomach while handcuffing him, according to the documents. But without being able to interview the DEA agents who made the arrest, it's impossible for the detectives to determine whether  excessive force was used.

The U.S. Justice Department's own Office of the Inspector General is conducting an investigation into the death to determine whether DEA agents used excessive force when arresting the man, said Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the DEA. The DEA has provided the LAPD with some information and documentation about the incident, she said.

"However, it is not uncommon for an agent under multiple ongoing investigations to decline specific law enforcement interviews until an inspector general investigation is completed," she said.

LAPD officials said they need to conduct their own homicide investigation. Chief Charlie Beck, who reports to the civilian panel on all serious use-of-force cases and in-custody deaths, outlined the department's struggles with the case in a report recently submitted to the L.A. Police Commission. 

Beck wrote that his detectives had made "numerous requests" to the DEA for interviews with the involved agents but have repeatedly "been met with negative results."

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