A police force is facing a watchdog probe after a “gentle giant” died while being “restrained” by staff and members of the public in a luxury jewellery store.
North Yorkshire Police were called to Mappin & Webb showroom at around 4.40pm on Tuesday following multiple reports of a “disturbance” at the premises.
When officers arrived at the store on Coney Street, York, they said a man – later named as Samuel Diatta, 39 – was being restrained by staff and others.
Police said Samuel experienced medical difficulties during the incident and was rushed to York District Hospital where he was sadly pronounced dead just after 6.40 pm.
Samuel has been described by family as “a gentle giant, who was kind and generous and loved by all who met him.”
It has now emerged that the force has referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct due to the involvement of officers in the incident before Samuel’s death.
A spokesperson from North Yorkshire Police confirmed: “North Yorkshire Police referred the incident to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which is standard procedure when someone dies following police attendance at an incident.”
A tragic statement has been released from Sam’s family via police which says: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our beloved son and brother Sam Diatta.
“Sam was a wonderful member of our family who will be greatly missed by us, his friends and family around the world.
“Sam was half Senegalese and his family in Senegal meant the world to him. He was a keen sportsman and supported both the England and Senegal football sides. He also played for York RI rugby team.
“Sam spent the first 9 years of his life living on Leeman Road and attended St Barnabas church and school.
“When we moved to Acomb Sam attended Poppleton Road primary school for two years, before heading to Manor C of E Secondary school, where he was a popular face in his year group. He belonged to Lidgett Grove church cubs and Scouts and enjoyed camping.
“Sadly, in his later teenage years Sam developed mental health issues which stayed with him throughout his life.
“A gentle giant, who was kind and generous and loved by all who met him. He had a strong Christian faith and with two others led the Christian Union at York College.
“As a young teenager he professed his faith in Jesus by being baptised at Acomb Baptist Church.
“We anticipate his funeral/thanksgiving service to be there at a date to be announced later.
“It has caused our family great distress to read some of the news articles online, suggesting Sam was involved in a robbery.
“This is incorrect information as confirmed by North Yorkshire Police and we respectfully ask that these rumours stop.
“Please can you respect our privacy moving forward. The Diatta Family.”
Police said they’d initially attended the luxury jewellery store, which sells Breitling and Rolex watches, after receiving several calls relating to a “disturbance”.
The force spokesperson said: “At around 4.40 pm, officers received multiple reports of a disturbance at the Mappin and Webb store and upon arrival, a man was being restrained by a member of the shop staff and members of the public.
“Unfortunately, the man, who has been named as Samuel Diatta, aged 39 and from York, began to have medical difficulties and was taken to York District Hospital where he was sadly pronounced deceased shortly after 6.40 pm.
“A medical investigation is being conducted into the cause of his death.”
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Steve Menzies of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Investigation Team added: “This is a very tragic incident.
“The three men who were arrested in connection with the report have been interviewed and released on bail pending the results of police and medical investigations.
“Samuel’s family are being supported by specially trained officers and I would ask that their privacy is respected to allow them time to grieve their loss.”