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Driver chokes to death on bag of dope

A New Kensington man who died after leading police on a brief chase early Sunday morning apparently choked to death in his vehicle.

Allegheny County police said Curtis D. Patterson, 40, was found in his vehicle about 2 a.m. Sunday. Patterson, who fled police about an hour earlier, tried to make a high-speed turn from Freeport Road in East Deer onto the Ninth Street Bridge, but his car struck one of the concrete approaches to the bridge, according to Tarentum police Chief Bill Vakulick.

Allegheny County police Lt. Andy Schurman said on Monday that Patterson's windpipe was found to be blocked with marijuana and a plastic bag that had contained the drug. Police surmise that Patterson tried to swallow the bag with the marijuana in it after police tried to stop his vehicle in Tarentum at about 1 a.m.

Patterson was pronounced dead shortly after 3 a.m. in Allegheny Valley Hospital, Harrison.

Tarentum police had stopped Patterson's car, but he fled the scene at high speed. Police chased him for about one block before calling off the chase.

"Local police had a very brief pursuit but ended it because it was at high speed and dangerous," Schurman said.

County police routinely took over the investigation because a death had occurred.

Court records show that Patterson was charged with selling drugs in West Mifflin and New Kensington. He served probation in each case.

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