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Cause of death for man who died in Santa Rosa police custody unclear

An autopsy performed Monday on a Santa Rosa man who died early Sunday after a struggle with police turned up no injuries that would explain his death, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office reported.

Wayne Hoffman, 48, had abrasions on his face, possibly suffered when he crashed his bicycle trying to elude capture or during an ensuing fracas with police officers, sheriff's Lt. Carlos Basurto said.

He also had injuries consistent with cardiopulmonary resuscitation performed at the scene, Basurto said.

But until toxicology results are returned in two or three weeks, it will likely remain unclear why Hoffman died, Basurto said.

"What I can tell you is that his death was not caused by any injury that he might have sustained either before, during or after the arrest," Basurto said.

Hoffman was riding a bicycle westbound on Steele Lane around 1 a.m. Sunday when a Santa Rosa police officer saw him cross the road diagonally through a red light at Illinois Avenue, Basurto said.

Hoffman then continued southbound on the wrong side of the road and failed to yield when the officer tried to stop him, authorities said.

A brief pursuit ensued on southbound Illinois Avenue, east on Sucher Lane, and then north on Nordyke Avenue back toward Steele Lane, Basurto said.

During that time, the officer twice positioned himself in front of Hoffman to try to stop him, but the man on the bike rode around him. As the officer was preparing to move in front of him a third time, Hoffman crashed on his bike, Basurto said.

The officer ran to him to try to detain him as two other officers arrived and joined the struggle, finally resulting in him being taken into custody, police said.


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