Autopsy: Woman in custody of Adams County deputy died from antidepressant drug, alcohol intoxication

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. - A 32-year-old woman who died in the custody of an Adams County deputy in February died from a combination of antidepressant and alcohol intoxication, according to an autopsy report.

Salazar's family and friends have been upset and puzzled by the death of the young woman, who suffered from bipolar disorder and took medication for it. Her family said Ann was otherwise active and in good health.

In the Adams County coroner's report, Dr. Michael Arnall stated that Ann Marie Salazar died as a result of intoxication from two antidepressant drugs, amitriptyline and fluoxetine, along with a blood-alcohol level of .19 percent. That's more than twice the .08 threshold for a driving under the influence violation in Colorado.

Salazar's amitriptyline concentration was between 1,807 nanograms per milliliter of blood and 2,2313 ng/mL, according to the autopsy report. The Mayo Clinic says an amitriptyline concentration of more than 300 ng/mL can cause "major cardiac toxicity" leading to rapid heartbeat and even heart attack. An overdose of fluoxetine can also cause increased heart rate. Alcohol can magnify an overdose of antidepressants.

Arnall wrote that the high concentration of amitriptyline in Salazar's blood "suggests the possibility of suicide." However, the doctor added that no suicide note was found, so he ruled the manner of death was "undetermined."

Sheriff's deputies arrested Salazar on the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 16, after she fought with her boyfriend at his Conifer Road home in southern Adams County.

The boyfriend, Pablo Pasillas Jr., told deputies the couple had been drinking on Friday night, but Salazar kept drinking heavily by herself on Saturday, according to an arrest report obtained by 7NEWS through the Colorado Open Records Act.

The boyfriend said the argument began when Salazar kept trying to hug him and he didn't want her to touch him.

Pasillas told deputies he pushed her away by putting his hands on her neck, and she responded by grabbing a pair of scissors and threatening to stab him.

The report also indicates that Salazar had scratched the boyfriend and a deputy found several scratches on his chest and arms.

Salazar's 7-year-old son witnessed the fight. He told deputies his mother had approached Pasillas as he was reading in a chair, and the boyfriend had hit and kicked at Salazar to get her to go away.

The boy, who was upset and crying, confirmed that his mother had swung a pair of scissors and tried to stab Pasillas, the report said.

A deputy asked Salazar what happened and she said her boyfriend choked her because she was trying to hug him. The deputy checked Salazar's neck and found a "very slight red mark" around the woman's collarbone, the report said.

The deputy asked Salazar what caused her to shift from wanting to hug her boyfriend to deciding she needed to defend herself with scissors. Salazar she said she didn't know anything about scissors.

The deputy arrested Salazar for felony menacing and misdemeanor assault and domestic violence .

As the female arresting deputy tried lead Salazar out of a basement living area, the woman began calling for her son and passively resisted by letting her body go limp and collapsing to the floor, the deputy wrote in the arrest report.

The deputy bent Salazar's left wrist against the handcuffs in attempt to "gain pain compliance" so the woman would get up and walk upstairs. But this didn’t work. A sergeant came and helped the deputy get Salazar up and walk her upstairs.

As the sergeant returned to the basement to check on Salazar's son, the suspect again let her body go limp and went to the ground. The arresting deputy again tried using pain compliance techniques-- bending Salazar's wrist against the handcuffs -- while asking the suspect to get up. This didn't work, so the deputy tried a closed-fist strike against Salazar's upper left arm and pressing a pressure point behind her jaw, according to the deputy's report.

None of this worked, so the deputy got the sergeant and another deputy to help her get Salazar into the back of the patrol car.

The autopsy report noted that Salazar had some bruising on her right upper arm, hand, wrist, foot and knee. It's unclear whether this was caused by her slumping to the ground and deputies efforts to get the woman up and moving.

The arresting deputy wrote in the report that as she drove north on Highway 85 toward the Adams County Detention Facility, Salazar began kicking in the backseat of the patrol car. The deputy yelled for Salazar to stop and -- after a couple more kicks -- she stopped.

The deputy wrote that she looked over her shoulder and saw Salazar slumped in the back seat. The deputy wrote she knew Salazar was breathing, because she saw the suspect's stomach moving up and down.

A little while later, the deputy looked back and saw Salazar was leaning back on seatbelts protruding for the backseat and it looked "uncomfortable and/or painful," the report said.

So the deputy stopped the patrol car as she pulled into the jail parking lot and asked a passing deputy to help her check on Salazar. The arresting deputy said the woman was unresponsive but appeared to be breathing. The deputy called for an ambulance.

Arriving paramedics told the deputy they believed Salazar wasn't breathing. The arresting deputy held Salazar forward while the other deputy removed her handcuffs, the report said.

The paramedics immediately began CPR and Salazar was transported to nearby Platte Valley Medical Center where she was pronounced dead at 2:27 p.m., the report said.

An internal review by the Adams County Sheriff's Office found no wrongdoing by deputies in this case.

"In-custody deaths are rare and they are always treated seriously by our agency," said Sgt. Paul Gregory, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office. "We have found that our deputies acted appropriately during the incident." He called Salazar's death "a tragic event."  

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