Investigation Launched Into Highland In-Custody Death

An investigation was underway in Highland after a 28-year-old man died while in police custody after having a "medical emergency" in a patrol car Wednesday, officials said.

Joseph Slater, 28, was taken into custody by Highland deputies after he was spotted in front of a Valero Gas Station "displaying unusual behavior," according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Police were first called to the gas station in the 27000 block of Baseline Road after 1:15 a.m. about a "suspicious" person damaging the property, officials said.

A deputy detained Slater and tried to put him in the back of the patrol car, but he was "uncooperative and refused to sit inside," officials said. The deputy then used pepper spray on Slater, but deputies said Slater tried to push them back.

Slater allegedly forced his way out of the patrol car, and deputies took him to the ground, officials said. Deputies then got him off the ground and put him in the back of the patrol car, where Slater "experienced a significant medical emergency," but deputies did not elaborate on what type of medical emergency.

Slater was taken out of the patrol car and put into an ambulance, and he died at a hospital.

Investigators from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Specialized Investigations Division are investigating the in-custody death. Slater's cause of death is not yet known and is pending an autopsy.

The city of Highland contracts for its law enforcement services through the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Calls to the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department were not immediately returned.

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