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Suspect dies in custody after struggle at South Coast Plaza

May 19, 2011

A man suspected of shoplifting at South Coast Plaza died after developing a medical problem during a struggle with police outside the shopping mall Wednesday afternoon, police said.

The man was a 44-year-old former Placentia resident, Costa Mesa Police Lt. Paul Dondero said.

Police were notified about two men spotted inside Saks Fifth Avenue about 4 p.m. One of the men was with two children, and the two men suspected of stealing sunglasses were pursued outside.

The man who died was said to be heavyset and struggling with police, who tried to restrain him. He then apparently began to suffer from a medical condition, Dondero said.

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The man was treated at the scene and taken to a local hospital where he died. Authorities declined to release his name immediately.

Because officers were involved, the death is being treated as an in-custody death, Dondero said.

The man with the two children fled in a taxi, and is being sought by police for stealing hundreds of dollars worth of sunglasses from the store, Dondero said.

—Lauren Williams

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