Five police officers have been served with gross misconduct notices in relation to the death of a man who was allegedly restrained during an epileptic seizure.
The 32-year-old, who The Independent is not naming at his family’s request, died two days after going into cardiac arrest in a police van and falling into a coma, according to his family.
He was spending his evening in Haywards Heath with his girlfriend and friends on 26 July, his family said, but when he fell into a complex partial seizure, a neighbour mistook his shouting for an argument and called the police.
Officers arrived as their suspect walked out of the house in a confused state - behaviour that his family said was routine for the man and is well-known among epilepsy sufferers.
“He wandered out into the garden as the police arrived and they assumed he was violent,” his aunt said.
“His girlfriend told the police he was having a seizure, she shouted at them to stop, but they ignored her.
“They pushed him to the ground and three police officers sat on his chest to restrain him, at which point he had a heart attack.
“But they didn’t realise and put him in the van.”
Minutes after the van set off, the police stopped in a nearby road and took the man out to administer CPR as he was not breathing.
An ambulance took him to hospital but he never recovered consciousness and died two days later.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said a sergeant and four constables from Sussex Police have been served with gross misconduct notices in relation to the incident.
The police watchdog would not confirm that the man was having an epileptic seizure or what method of restraint was used, but said he was restrained and put in a van with three officers, where he became “unresponsive”.
“IPCC investigators are examining the actions of officers, including the restraint used in the street and in the rear of the police van, and the medical treatment provided by them,” a spokesperson said.
“We are also examining the referral of the incident to the IPCC and whether there was a significant delay in the police contacting his family.”
It is too early in the investigation to say whether the file will be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider criminal charges, he added.
The IPCC emphasised that the notices do not carry an assumption of guilt but inform the officers that they are under formal investigation.
“He was already having the seizure and we feel they used excessive force when he was on the ground,” the man’s uncle said following his death.
“We feel that apart from our personal interest, there’s a huge public interest in this because it affects people with epilepsy and people with autism and other issues.”
The IPCC said investigators have taken statements from significant witnesses, obtained CCTV footage of the incident and reviewed initial statements made on the night by the officers involved.
The investigation continues.