Wanted parolee dies in custody of Antioch police

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A confrontation between a wanted parolee and Antioch police turned deadly early Friday morning, and residents are speaking out.

Wendell Celestine Jr., 37, of Pittsburg had been sleeping in a white Buick before he allegedly scuffled with officers during a confrontation that ended in his death.

Police say Celestine was a convicted felon who "fought violently" with officers. Authorities have launched an investigation, but neighbors are upset that he died while in police custody.

"The (police) car that was in front of the white car didn't have its red and blues on," said neighbor Deana Rinehart. "It had bright lights on. So, I mean, you shouldn't get woken up to bright lights in your face. I mean, you're going to be startled. I don't know if he gave up, or a fight, or what. I didn't see that. But the passenger, he watched it all. He watched his friend get beat."

The story actually begins about 8:20 p.m. Wednesday, when Celestine, who lived in Pittsburg, walked out of a local hospital against doctor's orders.. Authorities wouldn't say what he was being treated for, citing medical confidentiality laws.

Antioch police searched for Celestine, who they say has a long history of violent crimes and drug offenses. But they couldn't immediately find him.

But just before 3:15 a.m. Friday, officers found Celestine and a second man sitting in a white Buick parked at the dead end of East 6th Street, near McElheny Road.

Antioch police wouldn't go on camera, but said that while officers tried to arrest Celestine, he fought with them and got hurt. As an ambulance arrived, he began having medical issues.

"Respond for medical, McElheny Road and East 6th, McElheny Road and East 6th, AMR (American Medical Response) on scene with PD (Police Department), a fire dispatcher said on the radio. "CPR in progress."

"Next thing I know, I look back down and I'm like, 'Oh my god, Tyler, they're doing CPR on this dude.' He was, 'No way.' I said, 'Yyeah they're doing CPR on him.' "

The officers suffered minor injuries. The second man in the car wasn't involved in the confrontation and is cooperating with police.

Antioch police, the Contra Costa County sheriff's crime lab and the district attorney's office are investigating.

Celestine's death will also be the subject of a public coroner's inquest during which witnesses will be called to describe the events leading up how to he died.