A 22-year-old man believed to be under the influence of meth, and reportedly carrying a couple of knives, almost died early this morning after a long struggle with two police officers that ended only after one of the cops Tasered him.
After just one Taser cycle, the man—reportedly burning so hot in the cold air his body was giving off steam—almost immediately started having breathing troubles. Then, while an ambulance was on the way, his heart stopped. He's still alive now only because one of the officers quickly administered CPR, buying time until medical workers arrived.
It's a lucky break for everybody that the man didn't die—and that no officers were injured during the incident. It's also a reminder that Tasers, introduced years ago as a way to avoid using deadly force and keep cops from being hurt during struggles, are referred to as "less-lethal," and not "non-lethal," for a reason.
Based on what the cops described, the man was showing signs of what some experts call "excited delirium," an agitated state associated with stimulants and often a factor in deaths that follow the use of a Taser or other police restraints. Whether it's the Taser or an underlying issue that's more to blame remains something of a controversy.
"We've been saying that since day one," says Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch. "A Taser can stop someone's heart, which it apparently did."
The timing of this incident is especially significant given two separate discussions yesterday in front of the Portland City Council. Advocates from the city's police oversight Citizen Review Committee presented a report calling on officers to limit the number of times Tasers can be used on one person to three, citing risk of injury. The council also took up, again, federally mandated police reform that also includes Taser policy changes.
Among the proposed changes is a new rule to avoid using Tasers on someone who isn't well—the man wasn't acting rationally, cops say—unless an officer's about to get hurt. Cops also likely will be told to stop after every Taser cycle, like the officers in today's struggle did, and re-evaluate before zapping someone with 50,000 volts once again.
Read the full release after the jump.
Today, November 9, 2012, at 3:41 a.m., Portland Police officers contacted a 22-year-old man at North Ida Avenue and Central Street who was acting suspiciously and riding his bicycle without a light.
The man began acting strangely and told officers that he had something for them and lifted up his shirt, exposing the handle of a large knife in his waistband.
The officers grabbed onto the man's arms and removed the knife from his waistband. The man began to struggle with officers and began to drag the officers northbound on Ida Avenue.
After a significant struggle, the man broke free and ran from officers, hopping a fence into a yard at North Ida and Central Street.
One officer caught up to him and the man again said he had something for the officers as he reached down into his waistband. One officer was struggling to gain control of him but was unable to so the other officer deployed a Taser.
After a one-cycle Taser deployment, officers noticed the man's breathing was shallow, his pulse was low and he became non-responsive. Officers noted that his body was sweaty and steaming. He was not handcuffed and was rolled onto his side to assist with breathing.
Officers called for medical personnel to immediately respond then checked his pulse again and noticed that he had no pulse. Officers immediately began performing CPR. Additional officers and medical personnel arrived and were able to revive the man and transport him to a Portland hospital.
Medical staff determined that the man was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of his arrest. He is recovering in a Portland hospital.
Officers found a second knife in his pants pocket as well as methamphetamine and cocaine after his arrest. Officers discovered that the man had a Felony Parole Violation (Robbery) warrant.
Upon his release from the hospital, the man's name will be released and he'll be booked into the Multnomah County Jail. As in all uses-of-force by Portland Police Bureau members, an internal review will be conducted.