EAST PEORIA — A Central Illinois man suspected of shoplifting died after he fell into the Illinois River while apparently trying to hide near a U.S. Coast Guard station, authorities said.
The man died Friday after it appears he scaled a fence and tumbled down an embankment into the river in East Peoria, Fon du Lac Park District Police Chief Michael Johnson said Saturday.
Tazewell County Coroner Charles Hanley said the man was a 31-year-old Peoria resident. His name and cause of death were not released, pending an autopsy set for Monday, the Journal Star reported.
Johnson said the man was suspected of shoplifting from a nearby Walmart store, and he apparently ran from the store and attempted to hide near the Coast Guard station in East Peoria in an area where the embankment "is nothing but solid rock and is pretty steep."
"It looked like he kind of stumbled on the rocks and once he hit the water, instead of trying to get back to the shoreline, he tried to get to the dock in the harbor," the chief said. "He got about halfway, started to sink and couldn't get back up."
Authorities said the area where the man entered the river is several feet deep.
The Fon du Lac marine unit recovered the man's body, along with a neck brace he had been wearing.
The incident remains under investigation.