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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Doctor says taser not to blame for death

December 9, 2008
Gwendolyn Richards, Calgary Herald

A Red Deer man who was shocked three times with a Taser did not die as a result of the weapon, but partly because of a pre-existing heart condition, a fatality inquiry heard Monday.

Jason Doan, 28, was also in a state of "excited delirium"when RCMP officers found him smashing vehicle windows on Aug. 10, 2006.

It was the combination of these two factors that contributed to his death from cardiac arrest and not the shocks from the Taser, said Dr. Sam Andrews, who performed the autopsy, on the opening day of the nine-day hearing.

But the doctor also testified he could not determine from the autopsy that Doan was in a state of excited delirium at the time of the incident, only that he made that assumption based on the RCMP's report of how Doan was acting that day.

Doan was allegedly smashing vehicle windows in an alley when officers were called to respond.

After a chase, an officer shocked him with the Taser to subdue him. Doan went into a coma and was in hospital for three weeks before he died. In previous reports, witnesses said they saw the man using the handle of a pitchfork to attack one of the officers before the Taser was used on him.

People in a state of "excited delirium" --a brain chemical imbalance--often exhibit violent behaviour, superhuman strength and higher levels of pain tolerance. It can be exacerbated by drugs, alcohol or mental illness.

Andrews testified toxicology reports indicated there were no drugs or alcohol in Doan's system and that he had no psychiatric history.

Members of Doan's family were present for the proceedings.

"The aim of the inquiry is first of all the truth," the family's lawyer, Will Willier, told CHCA News. "And after the truth, we're looking for recommendations to prevent it from happening again. We want it so that Mr. Doan didn't die for nothing."

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