TAMPA — When Tampa police answered a call in December about a naked man banging on cars in the middle of Dale Mabry Highway, officers assumed Nathan Hamilton must have been on drugs.
It turns out Hamilton was, and it killed him, according to an autopsy report that was released Friday.
The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office listed the cause of death for the 39-year-old Tampa man as "intoxication by cocaine."
In other words, an overdose, said Julia Pearson, chief forensic toxicologist for the office.
Hamilton had cuts and bruises on his head, face and body, according to the report. Some of the cuts were several centimeters deep, and he'd bitten through his bottom lip. But the injuries were not severe enough to cause his death, Pearson said.
"If you look at his behavior, it's consistent with cocaine," Pearson said.
Cocaine raises body temperature and can throw someone into a fit of excited delirium, Pearson said. Influenced by mental illness or the use of such stimulants as cocaine and methamphetamine, people in the throes of the condition often have extraordinary strength, are impervious to pain and act wildly or violently. Some die suddenly.
Some medical experts and civil libertarians have questioned the existence of excited delirium and its frequent citation in cases that involve violent encounters between police and members of the public.
In the Hamilton case, witnesses called 911 about 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 28 to report a naked man had run into traffic on Dale Mabry near Columbus Drive. The man beat his head on at least one car and at one point, according to a caller, stood on the hood of a car, beat and kicked the vehicle and tried to open the driver's side door to pull the male driver from his seat.
Officers arrived and tried to take the man into custody, but he struggled and experienced what officers described as some sort of medical episode in the back of a patrol car, police said. He was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Investigators learned Hamilton had been staying in at the Howard Johnson Hotel at 2055 N Dale Mabry Highway. Witnesses said they heard screaming before Hamilton appeared in front of the hotel naked. Police spokesman Eddy Durkin said Friday that the investigation into the incident was still open and no more details were available.
The medical examiner also tested for 35 compounds of synthetic cannabinoids, also known as Spice, which is usually smoked by users and can cause users to act erratically. None showed up in the results, but experts cannot be sure none were there because there are more then 450 unique compounds of the drug, Pearson said.
Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.