Suspect dies after ingesting cocaine

Deangelo Rashard Mitchell (left), Wayne Joshua Mitchell (right)

A drug suspect was encouraged by his older brother to eat a large amount of cocaine to destroy some of the evidence, North Charleston police said Monday.

He died in custody less than an hour later.

Late last month, Wayne Joshua Mitchell, 20, of Ducs Court in Charleston, suffered a seizure in the back seat of a North Charleston police cruiser and was taken to a hospital. Police on Monday issued a warrant for the older brother, Deangelo Rashard Mitchell, 23, of 1931 Clements Ave., Apartment C, charging him with involuntary manslaughter.

The Mitchell brothers were arrested on the night of Nov. 30 on cocaine trafficking charges. Police said Deangelo Mitchell posted bail at Cannon Detention Center before police concluded he was complicit in his brother's death.

On a video made of the two brothers handcuffed and in a police cruiser, they can be seen and heard discussing their arrests.

Although the older brother seems distraught at times about the possible consequences of eating the evidence -- and warns the younger one, "You could die" -- he tells Wayne Mitchell, "One of us gotta do it."

Although both suspects are cuffed behind their backs, the video appears to show Deangelo Mitchell contorting to pull something from the rear portion of his clothes. He passes it to his brother, who manages to get his hands by his sides and the object to his mouth.

Wayne Mitchell then appears to be chewing something.

Copies of the video, which does not include the seizure or EMS responding to the scene, were distributed to the media Monday.

Police reviewed the video the day after the arrests, police spokesman Spencer Pryor said. When asked why it took so long to issue the new warrant for Deangelo Mitchell, he said warrants were issued only after results of toxicology tests were known.

SLED investigating

Police Chief Jon Zumalt said the State Law Enforcement Division was notified of the death in police custody and is investigating. Zumalt said Deangelo Mitchell is clearly heard telling his brother that because of Deangelo's lengthy police record, he will get life for another conviction.

"You the only one that don't have any strikes," Deangelo Mitchell tells his brother.

Zumalt expressed shock that a man would put his brother in grave danger to protect himself.

"Older brothers are supposed to love your younger brother, and have his back and take care of him," he said. "That's not what you'll see when you watch this video."

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said her investigation backs up the police department's conclusions concerning the death. She said an autopsy and toxicology tests determined that Wayne Mitchell died from acute cocaine toxicity.

Wooten said tests could not determine the exact amount of cocaine Wayne Mitchell ingested, but she said it was in powdered form.

She said the death occurred at 10:15 p.m., less than an hour after Wayne Mitchell consumed the cocaine.

Cocaine is a very dangerous drug, and the consequences of using or ingesting it are unpredictable, Wooten said.

Users cannot be sure "exactly what's in the drug," and when eaten, it is absorbed very quickly, she said.

A police report said that Deangelo Mitchell told police his brother had swallowed an ounce of cocaine.

Police report details

Police pulled a car over at 9:04 p.m. Nov. 30 at Clements and Carner avenues because one headlight was out, according to a police report. The car was driven by 29-year-old Shalon Glennkia Beaufort of Outlook Drive in North Charleston, and the Mitchell brothers were passengers.

The Mitchell brothers each appeared to possibly be concealing items, and after both men were cuffed and put in the police car, a search of the suspects' vehicle turned up three small bags of cocaine, together weighing 52 grams (just under 2 ounces), the report said.

The report said Deangelo Mitchell inquired about the possibility of just one of the brothers claiming the drug was his, but neither brother provided "specific details."

Later, while police were outside the cruiser, Deangelo Mitchell began yelling "in a panicked voice," and then made statements about Wayne "causing harm to himself" and "dying," according to the report.

After EMS took Wayne Mitchell to a hospital, police found cocaine residue on the cruiser's back seat, the report said.

Police that night charged the Mitchells and Beaufort with trafficking cocaine, the report said. A spokesman for Central Bond Court said Deangelo Mitchell's bail after the arrest was set at $50,000.

Police said the Mitchell brothers also were arrested Aug. 3, when a South Rhett Avenue apartment that both men occupied at the time was searched.

The search turned up 13 grams of cocaine, 5.2 grams of crack cocaine and a .22-caliber rifle. The Mitchells were charged with trafficking cocaine base (crack) and possession of a stolen firearm.

The pair apparently posted bail, but details were not immediately available.

Reach Edward C. Fennell at 937-5560.