Suspect choked himself with seatbelt in police unit, later dies at hospital

MODESTO, Calif.  — A man from Mexico who choked himself with a seatbelt after being detained in the back of a police unit died in the hospital, the Modesto Police Department announced on Thursday.

On Sept. 27, Emilio Villa Mora, 33, was suspected of attempting to enter a home and break into multiple cars, CBS 13 reported.

Investigators said several witnesses reported that Mora made comments that he was being chased by people intending to harm him. Further investigation revealed that Mora made multiple 911 calls during the alleged crimes saying that the cartel was chasing him and his life was in danger, police said.

Modesto police said they initially received reports of attempted residential burglaries at around 4:20 p.m. from the area of Briggsmore Avenue and Claus Road. As officers were being dispatched, the department said more calls came in of a suspect with a similar description trying to steal a car with a 15-year-old boy in the passenger seat, and of reports of another attempted vehicle burglary.

Mora was identified as the suspect in all situations, CBS reported.

As a result, Mora was eventually located and led officers on a foot chase, the department said. A Taser was deployed but did not have the desired effect. Police said the chase eventually ended in the backyard of a nearby home, where Mora was tackled, handcuffed and subsequently seatbelted into the back of the patrol car.

Police returned with Mora back to the scene of the originally reported attempted residential burglary to continue the investigation. While standing outside of the patrol vehicle, police officers reported seeing Mora moving around in his seat.

A short while later, police said they found Mora slumped over with his own seatbelt unbuckled and the adjacent seatbelt wrapped tightly around his neck, leaving him with a faint pulse and in need of transportation to the hospital.

Modesto detectives said the investigation points to Mora’s actions being a result of mental health issues or drugs. Additionally, detectives said there is no evidence indicating Mora’s life was in danger or that he was being chased.

The department said officer footage from the day will be released. An autopsy to confirm Mora’s cause of death will be performed on Oct. 5.


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