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US man jumps to death in Manila after drug arrest

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MANILA, Philippines — A U.S. Navy officer jumped to his death at Manila’s airport after he was arrested with what was thought to be cocaine, Philippine officials said Tuesday, but tests later showed the white powder wasn’t an illegal drug.

Lt. Cmdr. Scintar Buenviaje Mejia died of head injuries after jumping from a second-floor staircase Monday while a security guard escorted him to the bathroom, aviation police chief Pedro Desuasido said.

The 35-year-old Mejia, a U.S. citizen of Filipino descent, was arrested a day earlier at an airport X-ray machine after security officials found a plastic packet containing what was suspected to be cocaine in his bag, Desuasido said. He was about to board a flight to Los Angeles.

Desuasido said Mejia shouted and threw the packet at security officials. He denied the packet was his and claimed he was set up.

Dionisio Santiago, head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said chemical tests on the powder in Mejia’s bag showed it did not contain drugs. The tests, however, didn’t determine what the powder was.

Wossie Mazengia, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman, said American officials were aware of what happened to Mejia. She said Philippine National Police officials were investigating.

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