Marion Co. Dist. Attorney's Office
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News Release
Investigators release cause of death of man who died in police custody - 11/27/19

The Marion County District Attorney’s Office has concluded the investigation into the death of Allen Pitts, who died in the custody of Salem Police on September 28, 2019.

On September 28, 2019, at approximately 9:38 p.m. Salem Police Officers responded to a call at the Best Little Roadhouse regarding a man who had threatened to kill the restaurant manager and who was refusing to leave.  When police arrived they located the man, later identified as Allen Pitts, (DOB 9-29-69) and informed him that he had been trespassed and needed to leave.  Allen Pitts refused to leave and eventually began to struggle with police when they attempted to remove him from the booth he was sitting in.  

The struggle between Allen Pitts and two Salem Police Officers lasted for approximately 7 minutes.  During the struggle one of the officers used his taser on Allen Pitts with little effect.  As the struggle continued the officerscalled for back-up and medics to respond.  Once back-up officers arrived the police were finally able to control and handcuff Allen Pitts.  Shortly after he was taken into custody, and while he was still inside the restaurant, police noticed that Allen Pitts was not breathing.  The medics began treating Allen Pitts in the restaurant and then quickly transported him to Salem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy was performed by Dr. Sean Hurst, the Oregon State Medical Examiner, on September 29, 2019, in Clackamas, Oregon.  

Dr. Hurst ruled that the cause of death was cardiac dysrhythmia due to hypertensive heart disease and that a contributing condition was physical exertion related to an altercation with law enforcement.  Dr. Hurst found the manner of death to be accidental.

Allen Pitts had a criminal history and a history of mental illness. He had previously been committed to the Hawaiian State Hospital on two separate occasions.  The first time was in 2013 after he rammed two marked police cars in a stolen dump truck and then jumped into the oceanin an attempt to swim away.  The second time was in 2016after he was charged with assaulting a police officer and harassment.

The Oregon State Police conducted an extensive investigation into the death of Allen Pitts.  It included interviews with multiple eyewitnesses from the restaurant and interviews with Allen Pitts’s family and those who spent time with him in the days leading up to his death.  It also included the review of historical police reports, medical and mental health records as well as the review of video evidence documenting Allen Pitts’s activities earlier that evening. The investigation is now complete.

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