The death of a 63-year-old man taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital earlier this year because of a behavioral crisis has been ruled a homicide and Baltimore Police detectives are investigating.

The man’s death dates to Jan. 7, when police officers were called to a restaurant in the 1200 block of Orleans Street for a report of a man experiencing a behavioral crisis. Officers encountered a man threatening to harm himself and others, police said.

When medics attempted to treat the man, later identified as Paul Bertonazzi, he became combative and refused help. Crisis intervention officers were called to the scene and were able to transport him to the hospital for an evaluation.

On Jan. 13, homicide detectives were informed that the man had died at Hopkins Hospital a day earlier — five days after he had arrived.

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It wasn’t until Nov. 1 that the medical examiner’s office ruled the man’s death to be a homicide, due to “trauma to the body.”

“The manner in which the victim’s injury occurred is still under investigation,” police said in a statement.

Representatives at the Johns Hopkins Hospital responded late Thursday with a statement saying they were “aware” of the information disseminated by police about the nearly 10-month-old incident, and said they could not discuss any individual patient’s care due to privacy laws.

“... We can assure you that we are committed to providing the safest and highest quality of care for all patients. We will cooperate fully with the authorities as they proceed with their investigation,” the statement said.

Police initially declined to release Bertonazzi’s name and the hospital he was taken to, but did so Thursday afternoon, after The Banner published a story saying the information wasn’t being made public.

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The Maryland Office of the Attorney General’s Independent Investigations Division, which investigates police-custody deaths, said they were notified at the time of the Bertonazzi’s death and determined city officers were not responsible for his death.

“After a review of body-worn camera and surveillance camera footage, our office determined that the decedent was not in police custody when he sustained his injuries,” said Thomas Lester, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. “Based on these factors, the IID is not investigating this incident as a police-involved death.”

justin.fenton@thebaltimorebanner.com

Justin Fenton is an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Banner. He previously spent 17 years at the Baltimore Sun, covering the criminal justice system. His book, "We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption," was released by Random House in 2021 and became an HBO miniseries. 

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