A man died Tuesday night after Chicago police shocked him with a Taser stun gun because he was combative during an arrest on the West Side, authorities said Wednesday morning.Tribune
I too was involved in a "death in custody" incident, and this prior to supervisors being issued Tasers.
The offender was dressed only in his underwear (outside temp in lower 40's), sweating, and breaking windows of the residences on the block. We tried speaking to him and he mumbled incoherently. He became agitated and attacked a group of 8 officers. We struggled to cuff him and as we turned him over to bring him to the wagon we found him unresponsive. Fire was called and he was dead. We later found out that he died as a result of a heart attack and that he was under the influence of cocaine. I'm sure the fact that he weighed nearly 400 pounds didn't help his heart either. The citizens that were on scene, and there were plenty of them, gave the same account of the events as we did.
I found this article that I would like to share with you from PoliceOne.com
Three truths are becoming clear about excited delirium, the perplexing and violent human meltdown that is increasingly confronting LE and EMS personnel as a menacing problem.
1. A subject in the throes of this affliction may be on a "freight train to death" that no form of intervention can slow or stop.
2. Despite accusations by activists, angry relatives and the media, Tasers, "positional asphyxia," and other common scapegoats are not the cause of the person's ultimate demise.
3. If an ED sufferer is to be saved, "early and rapid" coordinated efforts of peace officers and EMS responders will probably be necessary.
These critical facts were the core of a frank debriefing by ED authority Dr. Michael Curtis, attended by PoliceOne and an audience of firefighters, LE officers, EMTs and hospital ER personnel at Waukesha County Technical College near Milwaukee. Curtis, an EMS medical director and an advisor to the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board, will be featured in a roll call training package on ED that the state’s Department of Justice is preparing.
"We have been lulled into a sense of security about medication taking care of psychiatric problems," Curtis stated. "But now we’re seeing an increasing number of people who stop taking their meds, along with a rise in methamphetamine and cocaine use." That baleful blend, in his opinion, means "we’re going to see more and more and more ED confrontations. Major cities may see more than rural areas, but it can strike anywhere."
Much about ED remains a mystery, although the syndrome has been recognized since 1849 or earlier. Modern experience shows that the typical encounter with first responders begins with an "agitated, excited" adult male creating a disturbance, triggering a call to 911.
As Curtis describes it, the subject will exhibit confused, disoriented ("Where am I?") and bizarre behavior that has begun abruptly ("He just snapped, out of the blue!" witnesses may exclaim.). This may include visual or auditory hallucinations, distortions (he may interpret benign noises as gunshots, for example), signs of "unusual fear," and violence directed at objects, especially shiny items and glass.
Hyperthermia (overheating) may be spiking his body temperature from 105 to 113 degrees, so he’s often sweating profusely, although perspiration may cease "in the later phases of the emergency." Frequently ED subjects will be tearing at their clothing or already be partially or totally naked. When police arrive, they probably find the subject "yelling and screaming," with emotions very unstable ("all over the place") and attention span "very short."
Typically a struggle ensues when officers try to restrain him. Because he has "superhuman strength and insensitivity to pain," multiple officers probably get involved ("It may take six to displace him."). He continues to fight even after restrained. Typically, he’s "transported in a police vehicle to jail."
He dies in custody. And the police, police tactics and police equipment are blamed.
[For more details on ED, Curtis recommended that responders consult the PoliceOne Web site, where a number of authoritative reports on the subject are archived. Another resource is the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, headed by Dr. John Peters Jr. (www.ipicd.com).]
Curtis then explained what often doesn’t make the headlines:
Intervention and survivability
Researchers in Los Angeles County studied 18 cases in which ED subjects were placed not in a police vehicle but in an ambulance after being restrained, with paramedics monitoring them. Despite cardiac treatment, all died, and all attempts at resuscitation failed.
Once their body crash begins and "they go over the edge, there is [generally] no bringing them back," Curtis said. Paramedics may try "every trick they have up their sleeve" to no avail. "ED creates some kind of profound derangement of underlying physiology," and in the vast majority of known cases subjects "can’t be resuscitated by any means." Whatever the intervention, "they usually die anyway."
Those who do happen to survive "often have severe medical problems for weeks afterward, including muscle breakdown and kidney failure that may require dialysis," Curtis reported.
The blame game
An autopsy typically shows that the subject suffered "minimal injury from the police confrontation," and that he had "illicit stimulant drugs" in his system. Because of the ineffectiveness of OC, baton strikes and other pain-compliance measures, a Taser may have been used to control his combativeness.
"The news media have implied a cause-and-effect relationship between Tasers and in-custody deaths," including those involving ED. But, Curtis asserted, "if you search the medical literature, there is no scientific evidence to date" that such a relationship exists.
Nor, he said, is there valid evidence that the way these subjects were restrained caused death via so-called positional asphyxia or hog-tying.
"If you [conduct a Web search for] ‘Taser and death,’ you’ll find news articles from all over the U.S., and the headline is always the same: ‘Dies After Being Stunned by Taser,’" Curtis said. "Cause-and-effect is assumed, but that is a fallacy of logic. Even though ‘B’ came before ‘C’ doesn’t mean that ‘B’ caused ‘C,’ especially if an alternative explanation, ‘A,’ better explains the result" ("A," in this case, being the nature of ED itself).
"Several forensic pathology studies" have confirmed that ED "is an imminently life-threatening medical emergency" that can produce fatal consequences, Curtis said. In short, the ED subject is already a medical mess before responders arrive.
"Because of pathology going on in his brain, his body can’t cool itself and his temperature just keeps shooting up" toward lethal levels. This is aggravated by his extreme physical activity (agitation and violence) and by dehydration.
Disruption of the subject’s metabolic functions, particularly a dangerous lowering of his blood’s acidity (pH) level, tends also be a significant characteristic of violent activity and dehydration — and of ED, Curtis explained. "The body works best within a narrow range of pH;" outside that range, there may be dire consequences.
Less clear but also a common associated factor in ED deaths is the subject’s "noncompliance with medications to control psychosis or bipolar disorder," Curtis said. Perhaps the effects of sudden withdrawal without being under medical supervision has placed these people "more at risk."
The dominant cause underlying this physiological chaos, Curtis said, is most often "stimulant drug abuse. A characteristic pattern is binging for two to four days before the ED episode. Acute intoxication with one of the stimulants — cocaine, meth, PCP — triggers the event" and sets the subject up for a calamitous outcome.
Mix into all this possible contributory health threats such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and you have a subject who’s "on a freight train to death," Curtis said, quoting a phrase coined by Sgt. Dennis Angle of Waukesha, Wis., Police Department.
In some cases, Curtis acknowledged, coroners or medical examiners have blamed Tasering for ED deaths, "but when subjected to scrutiny these determinations have not held up." The ED syndrome itself "is the underlying reason for these people dying, not intervention. So far, no one has been able to show a pathophysiological pathway from Taser to death."