Doug Burns, 43, was sprayed with Mace and wrestled to the ground by officers who were summoned to a movie theater Sunday night by a security guard, authorities said.
Burns, who was trying a new diabetes drug that night, said Monday he was preparing to see a film when he felt dizziness and poor vision, a sign of low blood sugar, and hurried to a snack counter.
The security guard noticed Burns' strange behavior and asked him to leave, thinking he was intoxicated, Redwood City Police Capt. Chris Cessina said.
When officers arrived, Burns allegedly lunged at one of them, pushing him to the ground with both hands, and took a fighting stance, Cessina said. Burns continued being combative until four officers wrestled him down, the captain said.
During the scuffle, the officers did not notice Burns' Medic Alert bracelet. An on-scene medical test later confirmed that Burns had low blood sugar during the incident, Cessina said.
Despite the misunderstanding, Burns was charged with misdemeanor assault and resisting arrest.
"The fact is Mr. Burns assaulted our officer," Cessina said. "If he had just stood there and let us help him, maybe they would have called the medics if he didn't seem to fit the description of being under the influence."
A court date has not yet been set in the case.
Burns, a board member of the American Diabetes Association who often speaks to raise awareness about the condition, said he doesn't remember the incident clearly.
"I could understand if I was belligerent or had track marks, but I was nicely dressed and I don't think I fit the profile or smelled like alcohol," Burns told the San Mateo Daily Journal.