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Report: Cocaine, Not Taser, Killed Chatham Man

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PITTSBORO, N.C. — A man who died in July after being shocked by police with a Taser gun died of cocaine poisoning, authorities said Monday.

Pittsboro police responded to reports of a man causing a disturbance outside the Chatham County Courthouse early on July 23. When officers arrived, Shannon Lane Johnson, 37, of Edwards Hill Church Road in Siler City jumped into a pickup and led Chatham County deputies on a 40-mile chase during which speeds sometimes topped 90 mph.

Johnson wrecked his truck on U.S. Highway 64 just west of Asheboro, the Chatham County Sheriff's Office said, and he was detained after he was shocked with the Taser gun.

Authorities said that Johnson began having trouble breathing and lost consciousness. He was taken to Randolph County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The State Bureau of Investigation was called in to investigate the case, and an autopsy showed a toxic level of cocaine in Johnson's system, according to a report released Monday. Authorities also found cocaine residue in a plastic bag that was found inside the pickup, the report said.

"The evidence is clear that there were no violations of the criminal laws committed by any of the law enforcement officers involved in the pursuit and arrest of Shannon Johnson," Chatham County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Gregson wrote in the report. "Both the manner and level of force used were well within North Carolina law governing the use of force to apprehend and arrest suspects."

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