Friday, July 11, 2008

St. Louis Area Man Dead After Tasing

A St. Louis area man died on Tuesday, July 8th following multiple tasings:
St. Louis County — A naked man died after being hit twice by Taser barbs fired by St. Louis County police, but the medical examiner said Thursday that's not what killed him.

Samuel DeBoise, 29, was shocked twice by St. Louis County police officers in a confrontation Tuesday night outside his mother's home in the 6100 block of Lake Paddock Drive. He died later.

Police said he had been combative, but some of his relatives insisted he was not, and that they believe the Tasers were unnecessary and lethal.

After the Tasers were used, "He started fighting again," said Officer Tracy Panus, a police spokeswoman. She said officers then subdued him with their hands.

"He wasn't injured. He had no scratches, bruises, nothing like that," Panus added. "They got him loaded into an ambulance and several minutes after being in the ambulance, he went limp."

DeBoise was pronounced dead at 10:03 p.m. Tuesday at Christian Hospital, more than an hour after police were called to the scene.

"It doesn't appear the officers did anything wrong," Panus said. "This guy comes out and he's naked. We don't know if he's on any type of drugs."

Airest Wilson, DeBoise's cousin and a family spokesman, said relatives acknowledged that the man was acting oddly and was naked. But he said the police use of Tasers was "totally unjustified."

Wilson, a paramedic with the Northeast Fire Protection District, said, "When police got there, he surrendered. He was not a threat."

He said DeBoise owned a construction business and was the father of two small children. "The family is very distraught over what happened," Wilson said.

Dr. Mary Case, the St. Louis County medical examiner, said DeBoise was schizophrenic and reported to be off his medication. She said an autopsy did not find a cause of death, although toxicology tests were pending.

Case said the circumstances rule out the chance that the Tasers stopped his heart rhythm. "Because the Taser was over and he's still combative, that tells me he's conscious and breathing and there's no cardiac arrhythmia," she said.

Case said psychotic patients in an agitated state have been known to die for unexplained reasons, and sometimes medications play a role.

Wilson, the cousin, rejected her explanation. "That's what they always say; it's like a script," he complained.
So, with an autopsy that found no cause of death and toxicology reports pending, the medical examiner is ready to say that a taser isn't to blame. How scientific.

It seems to me, that the most the examiner can say is something like "cause of death unknown, toxicological findings pending." Dr. Case, an MD, must have access to some large body of knowledge (that the rest of us don't) showing that the use of conducted energy weapons can not lead to delayed cardiac events. Dr. Case's conclusion presumption is at odds with at least one study.