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Sarasota suspect who dove from police car dies at hospital

SARASOTA -- A suspect who dove from a patrol car, ran while handcuffed, was tasered twice and then said he was having an asthma attack died at the hospital, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

John Paul Kaafi, 33, said he suffered medical distress following an escape about 9 p.m. Wednesday from a Sarasota Police Department patrol car while handcuffed. Emergency medical services could find no immediate medical problems, but the man died at Sarasota Memorial Hospital Friday morning.

The Sarasota Police Department is cooperating with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in the incident and three police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave in the wake of the escape attempt and death.

Officer Juan Jaimes with SPD stopped a vehicle for a blown tag light near the intersection of 8th Street and North Orange Avenue in Sarasota. Officers Adam Arena and Laura Markey arrived as Jaimes told Kaafi he was not under arrest but was being detained for officer safety, according to a release. Jaimes handcuffed Kaafi’s left hand and he began to pull away when the officer reached for his other hand.

Kaafi reportedly twisted his body and Jaimes wrestled him to the ground. While on the ground, Kaafi began thrashing his legs, making contact with Jaimes’ legs several times. Kaafi reportedly screamed he did not want to go to jail and lose custody of his children.

Kaafi yelled he had asthma and officers requested emergency medical services. Kaafi was placed under arrest for resisting without violence and Arena reported finding a vial of cocaine.

Jaimes then arrested Kaafi for felony possession of cocaine and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and a designer drug.

While at the intersection of Fruitville Road and U.S. 301, Kaafi asked the rear windows be put down in order to get some air. Jaimes lowered the rear/passenger side window halfway down and turned the A/C higher. While waiting in the eastbound turn lane of Ringling Boulevard and U.S. 301, Kaafi dove out of the rear passenger window and began running westbound in the 1900 block of Ringling Boulevard.

James used a stun gun on Kaafi while running after him with no visible effect. Kaafi tripped running across the median, was tased again and two officers made the arrest. Kaafi was charged with felony escape.

Kaafi was taken to the jail's sally port but never booked into the jail, instead transported to the hospital where he was guarded by Sarasota deputies, according to a release.

Kaafi’s past criminal charges include escape, aggravated battery, fleeing and eluding, burglary, possession of narcotics and probation violation. Kaafi has been sentenced to prison four different times.

Jaimes, Arena and Markey are on paid administrative leave per Sarasota Police Department policy. That action occurred before Kaafi's death. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is the lead investigator on this case.