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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Coroner: Cocaine, taser contributed to man's death

October 28, 2008
Vic Ryckaert, Indystar.com

The Marion County coroner's office said Monday that cocaine was in the system of a suspect who died after a metropolitan police officer used a Taser to subdue him in March.

Henry O. Bryant, 35, 3000 block of Cluster Pine Drive, died after officers used a Taser and chemical spray while they arrested him on a charge of public intoxication March 29 at O'Charley's restaurant, 5130 W. 38th St.

The coroner's office ruled that Bryant suffered a "sudden cardiac death" during the struggle with police, Chief Deputy Coroner Alfie Ballew said. Cocaine in Bryant's system and the electric shocks delivered by the Taser were ruled contributing factors, Ballew said.

The manner of death was determined to be homicide, Ballew said. Although homicide refers to a person killing another, not all homicides are determined to be criminal.

Officer Charles Martin, a 26-year veteran, was identified in reports as having used a department-issued Taser on Bryant. Another officer used chemical spray, the report said.

An internal investigation of the incident cleared the officers at the scene of any wrongdoing, Sgt. Paul Thompson said.

Jason R. Reese, an attorney for Bryant's family, said Bryant was not resisting arrest when the officers arrested him. The family intends to sue the department in federal court, Bryant said, but no suit had been filed by Monday.

The Taser incapacitates suspects by delivering up to 50,000 volts of low-amperage electricity through a direct stun or through two barbs shot into the body from up to 21 feet away.

According to Amnesty International, there were 307 Taser-related deaths from 2001 to Dec. 3, 2007, in the United States. The organization has argued that Tasers are being used as tools of routine force rather than as weapons of last resort.

A 2005 study by The Indianapolis Star found that Indianapolis police use of Tasers quadrupled from 2004 to 2005.

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