CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (FOX 2) - The 36-year-old man found upside down in a vent at Macomb Community College died of asphyxiation, according to the medical examiner's office and police.
Jason Anthony Thompson of Clinton Township was trapped in an inverted position that prevented him from moving, kicking, or using his arms, according to the Macomb College Police Department's Thursday update. This aligns with the preliminary findings of the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office, who stated that the cause of death was accidental asphyxia/entrapment/environmental suffocation.
Police said they found the body of Thompson inside the ventilation system at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on Center Campus on Nov. 26, after hours of searching for a mysterious odor.
"Once entering the system from the roof, he kept breaking through barriers and burrowing deeper into the HVAC system, traversing a great distance through the ductwork across the entire mechanical room," according to Macomb College police. "Ultimately, he came to a duct that was vertical in a downward direction, which he entered head first, getting stuck when encountering a narrowed section."
His body was found in a remote area of the building containing a mechanical room and enclosed duct work within the room, police said. A mass within the duct was discovered by the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad using X-ray equipment, and a small opening was created to insert a camera – which showed an inverted human body.
"In my 30-plus years, I’m very surprised at where we found him," said Macomb College Police Chief William Leavens.
The body was removed and identified as Thompson.
Thompson was last seen leaving a family member's apartment in Sterling Heights on Oct. 25 and reported missing by his family Nov. 1.
An investigation revealed that no foul play was suspected. Thompson was alone and without any supplies to sustain himself.
One of Thompson's final messages to his girlfriend stated that he believed he was being pursued by police. While he did have outstanding warrants, authorities said there was no evidence he was being actively pursued.
"He had communicated that he was running from the police, and in his attempts to evade arrest, that he was hiding somewhere on Center Campus on the roof of a building, may have hidden inside a ventilation area," Leavens said.
It is unclear how Thompson got onto the roof, but once he entered the vents after bending the thin meshing, he could not turn around or back up.
"He did not indicate he was in distress, trapped or in any need for assistance other than a ride from the location," according to police. "He made a deliberate decision to unlawfully enter the building’s ventilation system once on the roof, entering an air vent not designed to accommodate human access."
On Nov. 7, campus police searched rooftops and ventilation systems, but Thompson was not found until weeks later.
A toxicology is pending.
A GoFundMe was created by Thompson's cousin. The money would assist the family in paying for a memorial service for Thompson, and supporting his two children – Killian and Kiara, according to the fundraiser.
"He was a son, brother, uncle, cousin, but most important he was loved by his family and friends and will be missed," his cousin wrote.