Kalamazoo police: Death of man in custody not suspicious

James Ronald Dunigan 050916_212882

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Three days after sending a news release calling the death of a suspect in custody “suspicious,” authorities now say that’s not the case.

Kalamazoo County sheriff’s officials confirmed the man who died was James Ronald Dunigan.

The 57-year-old died Friday morning after he refused to leave the Bronson Methodist Hospital emergency room, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety authorities said. Eventually, hospital staff called police. After Dunigan continued his refusal, he was arrested on an outstanding warrant, KDPS officials said.

Something happened while he was being taken to jail and Dunigan died. He was unresponsive and didn’t have a pulse when he arrived at the Kalamazoo County Jail, County Undersheriff Pali Matyas said. Jail staff along with emergency responders from KDPS and paramedics tried to revive Dunigan using CPR, but were unsuccessful.

The undersheriff said Dunigan was never booked into the jail.

“As far as we’re concerned, he was dead in the garage,” Matyas told 24 Hour News 8. “We never got so much as a remote pulse…”

Matyas said his staff was familiar with Dunigan. He said the man had an extensive medical history, though he wouldn’t elaborate on specifics citing patient privacy.

The undersheriff said KDPS officers noticed Dunigan was having problems about half way to jail but didn’t immediately call for medical help, thinking he might have been faking. It wasn’t until officers arrived at the jail and realized Dunigan was unresponsive that life-saving efforts began. Emergency crews worked on Dunigan unsuccessfully for some 40 minutes, Matyas said.

Given the man’s history, the undersheriff said he doubted there was foul play.

Monday afternoon, KDPS started backing off their original characterization that called the death “suspicious.”

“It probably shouldn’t of been labeled that,” KDPS Chief Jeff Hadley said in an email statement to 24 Hour News 8. “All appearances this was a medical event. There was no struggle or use of Force whatsoever…”

Hadley said the officers who transported the suspect are still working.

What brought Dunigan to the hospital in the first place remains unclear, as does the reasoning behind him wanting to stay as hospital staff insisted he leave.

Reached by phone Monday afternoon, a Bronson Hospital spokesperson declined comment on the matter citing patient privacy.

An autopsy was being performed on Dunigan to determine a cause and manner of death.

Dunigan, listed as a parole absconder with the Michigan Department of Corrections, has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for home invasion, weapons offenses and prison escape charges.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Stories On WOODTV.com

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links