UPDATE: The Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the 27-year-old man who died this morning after being tased by sheriff’s deputies as King Hoover, of Tacoma.
PREVIOUS POST: A 27-year-old man died this morning after he struggled with Pierce County sheriff’s deputies and they stunned him with a Taser.
The Sheriff’s Department and Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office are now investigating the man’s death because it occurred while he was being taken in custody. The deputies involved in the confrontation were interviewed and placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.
The man’s name had not yet been released. The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office planned to conduct an autopsy to see what caused his death and whether there was any drugs or alcohol in his system.
The man had been a guest in an apartment in the 100 block of 170th Street East early today, sheriff’s Sgt. Jerry Bates said. The residents told him the gathering was over and asked the man to leave. He initially refused and a dispute ensued, Bates said.
The residents were eventually able to get the man out of the apartment. He allegedly took a propane tank from a BBQ and threw it through a back window. The man, who was cut on the arm by the glass, broke another window and went back inside the apartment, Bates said.
Deputies were called to the apartment just after 8:30 a.m. Dispatchers could hearing arguing, screaming and crying in the background. Two deputies arrived and found the man hiding behind a couch. The man didn’t follow commands to come out and refused to show his hands to the deputies, Bates said.
“They tried to physically take him into custody,” Bates said.
But the man continued to refuse. The two deputies then deployed a Taser and stunned the man once in the apartment.
“He continued to resist their efforts to handcuff him,” Bates said.
A third deputy arrived at the scene. The three deputies were able to get the man handcuffed as he kicked at them, Bates said. They also tied together his feet.
The deputies called for medical aid just before 9 a.m. because of the Taser application, which is standard procedure, and a cut on the man’s arm. Thirty seconds later, the deputies asked for paramedics to speed up their response because the man wasn’t breathing.
“Shortly after they got him under control, they noticed he was having trouble breathing,” Bates said.
Paramedics took the man to St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, where he was pronounced dead.
The department’s officer-involved shooting team responded to the scene to investigate because the man’s death occurred in custody.
Law enforcement agencies typically use Tasers, which are considered a non-lethal tool, to subdue combative subjects. The man’s death Tuesday is believed to be the first in-custody death after a Taser application by Pierce County sheriff’s deputies.
“They are used pretty successful,” Bates said. “Once he physically resisted, Taser use would certainly be justified.”
As of April 2005, three men had died in police custody in Washington state after being shocked with at least once with a Taser:
* Stephen L. Edwards, 59, was stunned once by an Olympia police officer Nov. 7, 2002. An autopsy showed he died of a heart attack, coupled with diabetes and obesity.
* Curt L. Rosentangle, 44, was shocked Feb. 21, 2004, during a struggle with Kitsap County sheriff’s deputies. Medical investigators ruled he died from “excited delirium with cardiac arrhythmia due to acute cocaine intoxication.” His wife filed a $2 million claim, accusing county officials of improper use of a Taser.
* Willie Smith, 48, was shocked more than once during a struggle with Auburn police July 13, 2004. An autopsy showed he died of acute cocaine intoxication and physical restraint.