Autopsy states Raleigh police Taser likely caused man's death

From staff reportsSeptember 10, 2013 

— Thomas Jeffrey Sadler likely died of cardiac arrhythmia – an irregular heartbeat – resulting from being stunned by Raleigh police with a Taser gun, according to the autopsy report released Tuesday by the State Medical Examiner’s Office.

Contributing to the Sadler’s fatal reaction to the electrical shock, however, were his heart disease – 50 percent and 75 percent blockages – and the slightly elevated amount of diphenhydramine in his system. The over-the-counter medication, known by the brand name Benadryl, has been reported in case studies to sometimes cause “paradoxical excitation” rather than the usual drowsiness associated with drug, the report notes.

The jolt of electricity as officers tried to subdue Sadler, his clogged heart and the medicine in his system proved to be a deadly combination, the autopsy report concludes.

On April 10, about 3:45 a.m., police were dispatched to Wiggs and Mial streets in the Five Points neighborhood to investigate multiple 911 calls about a “naked man, running around screaming at the top of his lungs and pounding on the top of his car, “ according to the police department’s report of the incident.

When Raleigh officer M.A. Ford arrived, he found Sadler “naked in front of his house.” Ford and fellow officer S.M. Archambault said Sadler first complied with their demands that he sit down. But then his demeanor changed and he began to utter profanities before he “leapt” to his feet and began to charge Ford with his fists clenched and held out in front of his face.

Ford reported that he thought that he was in danger, drew his Taser and discharged it at Sadler, who fell to the ground. Archambault attempted to secure Sadler’s arm behind his back, but was “bucked off” by Sadler who was still “actively resisting, despite repeated commands to place his hands behind his back,” according to the report.

The officers had difficulty getting control of Sadler, who the autopsy listed as more than 6-foot-1 and weighing 297 pounds. Ford used the stun gun several times as Archambault tried to handcuff him, according to the police report.

Ford then called emergency medical services for Sadler because of the use of the Taser, according to the report. The officers said while Sadler was handcuffed he “continued to resist by thrashing around and growling while he was on the ground.

“Mr. Sadler suddenly stopped thrashing and grew quiet. Officers immediately checked him and determined that he had stopped breathing and did not have a pulse,” the report said.

One of the officers began chest compressions, and the other called 911 to report that Sadler was neither conscious nor breathing, according to the report.

Emergency workers who arrived were unable to revive Sadler. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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