Famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump says evidence shows ex-NFL defensive lineman Glenn Foster was choked before he died in police custody earlier this month.
The renowned lawyer made the claim in a statement Friday ... saying an independent autopsy revealed that Foster's body showed "some evidence of neck compressions and strangulation."
Crump said he and medical experts believe it all reveals that Foster did not die of "natural causes" on Dec. 6 ... just two days after he was arrested in Alabama on Dec. 4.
"As we continue to investigate the case," Crump said, "we are learning that Mr. Foster's death in Pickens County appears to be part of a disturbing trend of Black men dying while in the custody of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office."
NEWS ALERT: @AttorneyCrump and co-counsel Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann and Robert F. “Bobby” DiCello have released a statement on the preliminary findings of the independent autopsy of Glenn Foster Jr. pic.twitter.com/ezay4XHign
Law enforcement officials have been mum about the details surrounding Foster's passing ... with reps from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency only saying that Foster did, in fact, die while in police custody.
"Nothing further is available as the investigation is ongoing," officials said in a statement the day after Foster's death.
We've reached out to the ALEA for comment on Crump's claims ... but so far, no word back yet.
Foster -- who signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and played two seasons for the team -- was just 31 years old.
His funeral has been set for Saturday in Louisiana.