Man dies after struggle with Fairfax Co. officer during group home outing

A group home resident in Fairfax County died Wednesday while in police custody.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WUSA9) -- A 45-year-old group home patient died Wednesday afternoon during a struggle with a police officer after he wandered off from a group home outing, Fairfax County police say.

According to police, Paul Gianelos wandered away from his group during a visit to Round Tree Park in Falls Church.

Gianelos was located by a veteran with the police department, who police say tried to talk the man into coming back to the group home outing.

At some point, police say Gianelos became combative and began to struggle with the officer, prompting him to attempt to handcuff the man.

During the struggle, Gianelos hit his head and injured himself, according to police.

The officer then called for backup and Gianelos' caretaker responded to their location, which was about a mile away from where he originally wandered off, according to police. 

At some point while being transported to an area hospital, police say Gianelos went into cardiac arrest and died.

Family members tell WUSA9 that Gianelos lived at a non-profit special needs group home and required 24-hour care and supervision for his disabilities, which were both mental and physical. He also had a history of wandering off and did not speak, his family said.   

Gianelos' family said this is not his first altercation with police. Last year, the family says Gianelos had wandered off and was found by a Fairfax County police officer. At some point, Gianelos was "beat up" by police, according to the family.  

The officer who located Gianelos is trained in responding to calls needing special services, police say.

The incident is under investigation by the department's major crimes division, which is a standard operating procedure, and is also being investigated administratively. 


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