Coroner speaks on death of man in MPD custody

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - The body of the man who died after leading police on a short chase earlier this week has been sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy.

The coroner confirms it was 33-year-old Jason Stevens who died in the Meridian Police Department's custody Monday afternoon. Coroner Clayton Cobler says Stevens was injured when he wrecked his car during that chase, but Cobler doesn't believe that directly led to his death.

"Just viewing the body, yes there was some trauma there, but it certainly wasn't enough to cause death," said Cobler. "Something made his heart shut off, and I don't believe it was trauma."

The body was sent to Jackson for an autopsy. Cobler hopes the toxicology report will provide some answers.

The chase happened a little before 2 p.m. Monday when a Meridian police officer tried to make a traffic stop, and the driver took off near Old 8th Street Road. The driver lost control of his car just outside city limits on North Lakeland Drive and went into a ditch.

Sgt. Dareall Thompson says multiple passengers bailed out of the car and ran away while the officer tried to arrest the driver. Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun says a Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks officer came by and tried to help the officer. There was a struggle to take the man into custody while the subject tried to get into the Wildlife and Fisheries truck.

The man was finally arrested and put in the back of an MPD vehicle. Calhoun says sometime later, an officer realized the man was in distress. He was taken to the emergency room and later declared dead. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is now handling the investigation.