Man who was found handcuffed in custody of special police officers dies

- D.C. police have begun a death investigation after authorities say a teacher's assistant died in handcuffs.

According to D.C. police, the 911 center received three different calls at around 4 a.m. Sunday -- two for what is being called as unknown trouble and the other for an assault in progress. Officers responded to 2312 Good Hope Road in Southeast. When they arrived, the officers reported finding 27-year-old Alonzo Smith on the second floor hallway. He was in handcuffs, unconscious and not breathing, according to a police report.

Smith was in the custody of special police at the time. The family’s attorney says the special police were security guards for an apartment complex. They are private employees not affiliated with D.C. police.

When D.C. police arrived, they tried to give Smith CPR and then called medics. Smith was transported to United Medical Center and pronounced dead at 5:08 a.m.

Smith’s mother is distraught and does not understand what happened or why the police report labels the incident as a “justifiable homicide.” On Thursday, FOX 5 confirmed that the incident has been reclassified as a "death investigation."

The family’s attorney tells FOX 5 that Smith had no weapon and that a witness heard Smith running down the hall yelling, “Help! Help! They’re going to kill me!” At this point, it is not clear who “they” refers to.

The family’s attorney says she has not been given access to the autopsy report and has not been able to see the body, but she says Smith was beaten. Based on the witness account, she believes that Smith “was very much alive before the special police got to him.”

Smith’s family says he worked as a teacher's assistant at Accotink Academy Learning Center in Springfield, Virginia for the last three and a half years. He was also a portrait model at The Art League in Alexandria. They have started a GoFundMe account in his name.

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