No criminal charges will be filed against three Willingboro police officers involved in a confrontation that resulted in the death of a Burlington County man.
Tyrone Awkward, 37, of Willingboro, died Nov. 6, 2005, after refusing to go to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
As officers physically subdued and handcuffed him, Awkward began to have trouble breathing. Paramedics resuscitated him several times, but he died shortly after arriving at Lourdes Medical Center.
Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said the police officers' actions in restraining Awkward fell within the state Attorney General's guidelines.
The investigation was also reviewed by the state Division of Criminal Justice, which agreed with the prosecutor's findings, said Jack Smith, spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office.
An autopsy performed on Awkward found no evidence of traumatic injury, Bernardi said. The county medical examiner determined Awkward died of acute congestive heart failure.
The attorney for Awkward's family disputed those conclusions yesterday. "He had no history of heart problems," said Adam M. Starr. "We are not in agreement with the prosecutor's findings."
Now that the criminal investigation is complete, Starr said, he could "go forward" with a civil lawsuit. He declined to elaborate.
Awkward's death was the first of five police-related deaths in Burlington County to occur in the span of a year.
Thomas Garcia, 63, was shot dead at his Palmyra home Dec. 13, 2005, when he brandished a knife at a Riverton police officer. The officer was exonerated by the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office.
Richard Arthur Dunn, 19, of Willingboro, was killed March 11, 2006, after he lunged at an officer with a knife inside a church. Anthony S. Bush, 40, of Browns Mills, was found dead five months later, on Aug. 1, in a Pemberton Township jail cell.
And Albert Gunter, 49, of Pemberton Township, died Nov. 10 after a struggle with Lumberton Township police. Gunter's family filed a $100 million wrongful-death suit in December citing inadequate police training.