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Lakeland Man Died After Being Baker Acted

Polk County Sheriffs Office Press Release

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of a Lakeland man who died at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, after he was taken there under a Baker Act.


Preliminary information so far is as follows:


At 3:25 a.m. on April 24th, PCSO deputies responded to Woodland Avenue in Lakeland in response to a disturbance. Roommates living with 52-year-old Darren Copeland called PCSO due to Copeland behaving erratically and making statements such as he was “ready to meet my maker.” He also asked his roommates to call law enforcement to help him.


When deputies arrived on-scene, Copeland was walking out of the residence, and they observed that he was sweating profusely, with his clothes soaked from sweat, and that he was in a state of panic. Copeland made statements to the deputies such as “they’re trying to kill me” and “I want to meet my maker” and said he needed help. As the two deputies approached him to escort him to a patrol car so they could transport him to a local hospital under the Baker Act, Copeland ran from them to the side of the house, then tripped and fell to the ground. The deputies caught up with him and attempted to restrain him, when he began to struggle. Nobody was injured during the struggle, but shortly after the struggle, Copeland became unresponsive.


The deputies immediately began CPR, and a PCFR unit that was already enroute arrived seconds later and took over life-saving measures. Copeland’s heartbeat was restored, and he was transported to LRHMC.


Copeland’s condition did not improve after he was admitted under the Baker Act, and his next of kin made the decision to remove him from life support. He was declared deceased at 8:56 p.m. that evening.


An autopsy was conducted this morning, on April 25, 2019, and his exact cause of death is pending toxicology. Dr. Nelson said it appears to be a case of excited delirium, and that he did not find any evidence of foul play or injury, and also noted the victim had an enlarged heart. An initial medical screening at LRHMC found evidence of methamphetamines and marijuana in Copeland’s system.


The investigation is ongoing. It is standard PCSO policy for four separate, independent investigations. The PCSO completes a death investigation and administrative (internal) investigation. The Polk County Medical Examiner conducts the autopsy to determine the manner and cause of death. All the investigative findings are forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office for their investigation and review.

Copeland’s arrest history includes 7 felonies and 4 misdemeanors, for charges such as robbery, battery, resisting arrest, possession of cocaine, delivery of synthetic marijuana, and VOP. He’s been to state prison 5 times, in 1988, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008. A Florida Dept. of Corrections mugshot of Copeland is attached. 

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Staff Reporter

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