Waukegan officers cleared of wrongdoing following in-custody death last summer

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WAUKEGAN, Ill. — The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office found no wrongdoing by Waukegan police in the “in-custody” death of a man last summer.

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim considers the case closed after sending a letter to Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles.

The man, 31-year-old Avion Cotton, passed away after he was arrested in the 600 block of King Avenue on June 27, 2019.

Cotton exited his car and began to approach the home. Police said as detectives approached him, he fled on foot.

Police said as Cotton began to run away, he started to eat an unknown white substance. He then fell and was placed into custody. Police said while he was being taken into custody, Cotton continued to chew on the substance.

In the letter, Nerheim said Cotton swallowed 38 grams of cocaine laced with fentanyl.

Police said Cotton refused orders to spit it out. He then became physically distressed and detectives called the fire department.

Nerheim said body cam footage of the incident, which was released Friday, did not show police choking, abusing, tasing or tripping Cotton.

“Spit it out dude, you’re going to die,” one of the officers said.

The fire department took the man to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Cotton had suffered a heart attack.

“He did not choke to death on that bag he died as a result of the drugs in his system,” Nerheim said.” I don’t think they could have done more than what they did.”

Police said they are pleased with how the investigation concluded, but it’s far from a happy ending.

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