UPDATED: Officials identify man who died in custody after pursuit

Updated 3:35 p.m. Medford police have identified the man who died in police custody following a car and foot chase Tuesday night.

Detectives are awaiting the results of an autopsy that could shed light on the death of Joseph Matthew Vavrosky, 42, of the 200 block of Elm Street in Medford.

Vavrosky's next of kin have been notified of his death, Medford police said in a news release.

Medford police also released additional details about the actions leading up to Vavrosky's death.

Vavrosky led Oregon State Police on a chase on Interstate 5 that ended at the north end of the viaduct.

Vavrosky jumped from his car and fled from the trooper.

Vavrosky attempted to hide in the area near the viaduct. Medford police established a perimeter in the area in the hopes of keeping Vavrosky from escaping.

Two Medford officers soon saw Vavrosky trying to scale a fence on the east side of the freeway.

The officers feared Vavrosky would jump the fence and flee across the freeway, so they shot their Tasers, which did not appear to have an effect.

It is not known if the Taser probes made contact with Vavrosky's skin or clothing, police said.

He was able to scale the fence and sprinted west across the freeway.

The officers did not pursue and lost sight of Vavrosky as he darted across the westbound lanes of Interstate 5.

A few minutes later, Vavrosky was spotted lying in the bushes in the bikepath near McAndrews Road. Vavrosky obeyed orders to leave the bushes and was taken into custody without a struggle, police said.

As the officers walked him out of the bushes, he collapsed and soon died despite emergency medical help, police said.

11:55 a.m. Medford police said a man died in custody Tuesday night after Medford officers and Oregon State Police chased him across town before catching up with him in brush along the bike path near McAndrews Road.

Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said an Oregon State Police trooper tried to stop a vehicle at 9:32 p.m. Tuesday on Stewart Avenue as part of a countywide DUII crackdown. The man driving the vehicle refused to stop and fled, merging onto northbound Interstate 5.

After passing over the viaduct, the man pulled over, got out of the car and ran toward Biddle Road, leaving a passenger behind, Budreau said.

Budreau said that Medford officers had heard about the chase over the radio and were nearby.

"He was actually running right into our area," Budreau said. "We had officers on scene within minutes to set up a perimeter."

Medford police officers saw the man scaling the fence that separates I-5 and Biddle Road. Once he was spotted by officers on Biddle Road, the man changed direction and leaped back over the fence, crossing I-5 and narrowly dodging traffic on the interstate.

"The officers do not give chase. But we happen to have officers on the other side as well," Budreau said. "About six minutes goes by before he is found hiding in the bushes on the west side of I-5, by the bike path near McAndrews."

According to Budreau, the man was taken into custody without incident, but as officers began to walk him out of the bushes, he collapsed.

"They immediately started life saving procedures and called for an ambulance," Budreau said. An ambulance then took the man to Providence Medford Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

"Basically it is an in-custody death," said Budreau. "All in-custody deaths are treated very seriously and are investigated by the Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit per protocol."

The man's name will be released by investigators later today. Officers were able to verify that the man was wanted on a felony warrant for failure to appear on a possession of methamphetamine charge and he was on probation for car theft and eluding an officer.

"There is still a lot of work to be done, like an autopsy to determine cause of death," said Budreau.

— Mandy Valencia

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