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Tampa officer cleared in death of suspect

A Tampa police officer was cleared recently in the unusual death of a man he chased during a drug-related investigation last year.

After a complaint one night last October at Scruggs Manor Apartments on Fowler Avenue, Officer Raymond Esteves ran after a suspect, caught him, and then noticed the man was choking, according to police reports. The officer performed first aid on Tommy Pugh, but Pugh, a 23-year-old carpenter, died days later at University Community Hospital.

Police said that Pugh had tried to swallow something that night, but they weren't sure what. The answers were in the autopsy. From Pugh's throat, the medical examiner removed a plastic sandwich bag containing three one-inch bags of marijuana and ruled that the cause of death was asphyxiation.

Police investigators said that Pugh was trying to get rid of evidence that night and that the officer "in no way contributed" to his death.