OC DA Finds No Wrongdoing by Laguna Beach Police for In-Custody Death of Homeless Man

An Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) investigation into the in-jail death of Stephen Gage has found no "criminal culpability" by Laguna Beach Police. The 43-year-old homeless man died the day after being arrested and booked on April 8, 2013. The five-page report was delivered to Police Chief Paul Workman seven months later.

On the day in question, Gage was sifting through a trashcan during the early morning hours when a Laguna Beach homeowner called police.

Officer Greg Hiler and Rock Wagner responded. Hiler observed that the homeless man appeared to be intoxicated slurring his speech among other things. He was arrested for public intoxication and possession of 0.01 grams of meth.

When booked at the LBPD jail, Gage began complaining of swollen legs as well as pain. According to the OCDA investigation, Officer Hiler had the man transported to Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach to be medically cleared. A doctor on the scene evaluated Gage and concluded he was suffering from critical illnesses including multi-organ failure.

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It was at this time that the man was released from custody and treated. The doctor observed no signs of injuries and Gage made no statements in terms of his interaction with police. The next day, in critical condition, he was transferred to a hospital in Mission Viejo where efforts to save his life failed.

"No LBPD officers committed any acts that caused the death of Gage," reads the concluding legal analysis of the OCDA. "They did not commit any acts at all besides taking Gage into custody before releasing him for hospitalization and treatment."

The investigative letter can be read in its entirety online.

Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz

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