Jailed Somali died from drinking


LEWISTON – A Somali man who died in the county jail last year drank himself to death, a report filed by the state’s chief medical examiner said.

Ahmed Hussein Samater, 46, of 149 Bartlett St. had a blood/alcohol content of 0.28 percent, more than three times the legal limit for driving.

Authorities checked for 163 pharmaceutical drugs and illicit drugs. None were found, only alcohol.

The official cause of death was cerebral hypoxia due to acute ethanol toxicity, or drinking an excessive amount of alcohol. The death was accidental, according to the report by Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marguerite DeWitt.

Samater was unresponsive in his cell at Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn around midnight on May 28, 2006. Shortly before 6:30 p.m., he had been arrested by Lewiston police after he was seen hanging out the window of a building near the police station and was heard yelling at passing cars.

Police had warned him to stop, but Samater continued and was later arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct. Police handcuffed him and took him to jail.

Officers described him as “extremely intoxicated,” having “slurred speech” and “a heavy odor of alcohol.” He was “very unsteady on his feet,” the report stated.

After putting him in an observation cell, jail workers reportedly checked on him throughout the evening. Around midnight, he was breathing “funny,” jail officers said. He was unresponsive and his pupils reacted poorly to light. He still had a pulse.

Officers called an ambulance. At about 12:20 a.m., his pulse had weakened and he stopped breathing. Emergency medical technicians used cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Samater died at the emergency room at Central Maine Medical Center at 12:50 a.m.

Samater had multiple prior visits to the emergency room for alcohol-related problems, the report said.

Contributing factors to his death included high blood pressure, a fatty inflammation of the liver often found in alcoholics and micro-scarring of the heart tissue, a normal condition, according to a spokesman at the Office of the Medical Examiner.

Neither Lewiston nor state police said they were surprised by the formal findings.

“This was a key piece of information we need to conclude our investigation” into the death, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for Maine Department of Public Safety.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” said Lewiston police Deputy Chief Michael Bussiere. “But at least now the public knows and the community knows that it had nothing to do with the subject being incarcerated or arrested.”

Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins said he hadn’t seen the report and therefore couldn’t comment on it.

Samater’s death, coupled with reports of violence and vandalism, touched off protests last summer. Many Somalis living in the city blamed law enforcement authorities for Samater’s death and claimed officers turned a blind eye to crimes against those in the Somali community.

Maine State Police had investigated the death and concluded there had been “no inappropriate conduct” by Lewiston officers.