THE BRONX — A man died during an attempted drug bust by police Wednesday night when he fled into a Bronx bodega to evade officers and tried to swallow a bag of white powder, police sources said.
Officers approached the 52-year-old suspect, whose name was not immediately released, during a hand-to-hand buy and bust operation at 3598 Jerome Ave. shortly before 10 p.m., police said.
When the cops began to arrest the man, he allegedly took a golf ball-sized package filled with white powder and tried to shove it down his throat, police said.
Officers trying to subdue the man used pepper spray on him, but he fled into a nearby 24-hour bodega, police and witnesses said.
“Officers were struggling with him outside,” said Bandan Bandani, an employee at the bodega who was not present at the store at the time of the incident but watched it unfold later on the store's security footage.
“They were wrestling with him,” Bandani said, adding that the man was a regular customer who had never caused problems. He had been in the store earlier in the night to buy cigarettes, the employee said.
Once inside the store, the suspect stumbled around and flailed his arms as police struggled to cuff him — and then he fell to the floor, witnesses said.
“They were trying to get him up. They were yelling ‘Get up! Get up!’" said Ebudl Gobah, who was working the register at the bodega, speaking through a translator.
“They were trying to pull him up by his arms, but he wouldn’t get up,” Gobah said. “They checked to see if he was alive.”
Police said when the suspect stopped breathing, police initiated CPR, tried to revive him with defibrillator paddles and called an ambulance. EMS workers removed a bag filled with an unidentified white powder from the man’s throat, police said.
He was taken to North Central Bronx Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.
Police said they were running a toxicology report to determine the substance in the baggie.