TRENTON — Police officers didn't cause the death of a man who was pepper-sprayed and later died at a hospital, the state attorney general's office concluded in a report released Monday.

Steven Sherlock, 25, of Fair Lawn died in March at St. Joseph's University Medical Center shortly after he was brought there by police investigating a barroom brawl in Paterson.

The use of pepper spray was justified and the officers' use of force didn't contribute to Sherlock's death, the office's shooting response team concluded.

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According to the investigation, Paterson officers arrived at Duffy's Bar early on the morning of March 17 in response to a report of a fight. They found Sherlock outside the bar, struggling with bar security guards. A videotape showed that Sherlock had been fighting with a man and woman outside the bar, and apparently had knocked the man unconscious.

One officer used a short blast of pepper spray to help subdue Sherlock after he refused orders to show his hands, according to the report. Officers then handcuffed him and drove him to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, Sherlock refused to leave the police car, and, after officers removed him, laid on the ground and refused to stand up, the report found. He then walked into the hospital, stumbling and falling several times.

After officers escorted him to a room, removed his handcuffs and left, Sherlock tried to assault hospital staff and security, according to interviews with witnesses and video surveillance footage used in the investigation. He died about 50 minutes after officers left the hospital.

An autopsy ruled the death accidental and found Sherlock died from a heart condition exacerbated by acute alcohol intoxication and “excited delirium.”

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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