Man dies in police custody in Poplar Bluff

Sunday, July 8, 2012

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- State officials are investigating a Poplar Bluff man's death while in police custody.

An autopsy was performed on Charles A. Riels, 40, Friday afternoon by Dr. Russell Deidiker at Mineral Area Regional Medical Center in Farmington, Mo., according to Butler County Coroner Jim Akers.

Officers with the Poplar Bluff Police Department responded to a 911 call concerning a man, later identified as Riels, "creating a disturbance, disrobing and causing property damage inside the Casey's General Store located at 1995 S. Broadway," said Chief Danny Whiteley.

Store personnel, he said, reported numerous items being knocked off the counter and displays throughout the store.

After the initial 911 call came in at 2:55 p.m., a second 911 call came in at 3 p.m. before the officers' arrival, said Capt. Don Trout.

When officers arrived, Whiteley said, they found Riels, a resident of south Poplar Bluff, in the store's parking lot, "stripped down to his shorts, yelling incoherently and appearing to be delusional."

These same officers, Whiteley said, previously had encountered Riels before the July 4 parade on Wednesday.

Trout said the department had been contacted about Riels at about 7:10 a.m. Wednesday, but initially couldn't find him.

"We got several calls on (him) that morning" before he was located at 7:35 a.m., Trout said. The calls, he said, originated from the "same general area" in south Poplar Bluff.

Due to what the officers described as erratic and delusional behavior at that time, an ambulance was called and Riels was taken to Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center.

Trout said Riels "walked away" at about 12:25 p.m.

"These officers again determined (Thursday) that (Riels) needed to go to the hospital and began transporting him in their patrol car," Whiteley said.

At 3:04 p.m., Trout said, the officers had Riels in custody and were en route to Poplar Bluff Regional with him.

While en route, Riels allegedly "began kicking the windows and security screen in the car," as well as the doors and roof, Whiteley said. A radar unit, located behind the seat, was broken, he said.

Riels alleged behavior, Whiteley said, forced the officers to stop the car near the intersection of Highway 53 and Cross Street to secure him.

"As the officers opened the door, (Riels) began kicking at them," Whiteley said. "A struggle ensued, and the officers called for an ambulance in order to subdue him and transport him to the hospital."

Riels, Whiteley said, became unresponsive and officers began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation to him.

An ambulance subsequently arrived and took him to the hospital, where, Trout said, he was pronounced dead at 3:40 p.m.

Upon learning of Riels' death, Whiteley said, he contacted the headquarters of Missouri State Highway Patrol in Jefferson City and requested Troop E's Division of Drug and Crime Control handle the investigation, which is standard procedure.

Also standard operating procedure, he said, was to place the four involved officers on administrative leave with pay pending the completion of the investigation.

Whiteley said he also contacted Akers as required by state statutes.

"I have, as Chief Whiteley did, requested for the Missouri State Highway Patrol to assist in the investigation," Akers said. "It's an ongoing investigation, and we hope to have answers very soon."

If toxicology results are needed to determine Riels' cause of death, Akers said, those could take up to six to eight weeks.

Preliminary information, according to Whiteley, indicates "bath salts and/or other illegal substances" may have been involved.

Pertinent address:

Poplar Bluff, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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