The death of a transgender Berkeley resident who died while in police custody last February has been ruled as an accident resulting from a drug overdose.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau released its report in the investigation of the death of 41-year-old Kayla Moore Friday afternoon. The coroner’s report lists the cause of death as an “acute combined drug intoxication.”
Toxic amounts of methamphetamine and codeine were found in Moore’s blood, according to the report. It also noted that an enlarged heart and morbid obesity were contributing factors to her death.
In addition to the coroner’s office report, Berkeley Police Department released the findings of its own investigation into Moore’s death Friday afternoon. The report also concluded that the death was accidental.
In recent weeks, the department has faced criticism from community members as well as Moore’s family, who claimed that BPD had not been forthcoming with its investigation.
A press hold had been put on the coroner’s report since the beginning of the investigation, and groups like Berkeley Copwatch demanded that the hold be lifted and the report released. Demonstrations were held at a City Council meeting, and protesters marched to BPD headquarters calling for more transparency from the department.
“We understand there was a need to get information quicker, and there was a desire on our part that we provide all the information we could to the community,” said BPD spokesperson Jennifer Coats. “But at the same time, we wanted to make sure we did a proper and thorough investigation for Moore but also for Moore’s family, the community and the officers involved.”
The report goes into detail about what occurred on the night of Feb. 12 and includes witness statements and interviews with the responding officers. The report also includes a written statement by John Hayes, who lived with Moore at the Gaia Building apartment complex and was the one who called the police.
According to Hayes, Moore used drugs on a regular basis, including crack and methamphetamines. On the night of the incident, Hayes said Moore was drunk and high on methamphetamines, causing her to act belligerent.
“(Kayla) asked me for money to get more speed and alcohol, and I told him to go ask someone else and leave me alone,” Hayes said in the statement. “(Kayla) got really angry and wouldn’t leave me alone, we began and arguing and … (she) told me to just get out.”
Hayes left the apartment and called the police afterward, fearing Moore would attack him and saying that she had a history of aggression. He cited an incident in which Moore stabbed someone in San Francisco.
According to Coats, police were originally called in to take Moore, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, to a mental health evaluation at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. Officers discovered Moore had an arrest warrant out for an earlier incident in San Francisco and proceeded to arrest her instead. Moore got into an altercation with the officers and was eventually restrained to a gurney.
“(She) became increasingly agitated and uncooperative to the officer’s verbal commands and began to scream and violently resist,” according to a statement from BPD. “After struggling with officers, they were able to gain control of the subject and place (her) in restraints.”
Officers soon discovered Moore had stopped breathing, and they performed CPR. Moore was rushed to the medical center, where she was pronounced dead.
Staff writer Sophie Ho contributed to this report.