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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bay City police, witnesses disagree on what happened after Taser incident

March 24, 2009
by Tom Gilchrist, The Bay City Times

Bay City Police Chief Michael Cecchini said officers "immediately rendered aid" after using a Taser on 15-year-old Brett Elder, who died Sunday after the incident.

With Bay City Mayor Charles M. Brunner and City Manager Robert V. Belleman standing behind him in the Bay City Commission Chambers, Cecchini offered condolences to Elder's family during a press conference this morning.

City police, however, didn't allow relatives of the late teen into the room to hear the police chief read from a prepared written statement.

Cecchini, the mayor, the city manager and Deputy Police Chief Thomas Pletzke immediately walked out a side door after the chief's statement, fielding no questions from the press.

Wendy Elder, 34, the late teenager's sister-in-law, said Cecchini's account of police rendering aid immediately is not accurate.

"I was there, and the police didn't do anything," said Elder, reacting to the account Cecchini gave to the media.

"The police didn't do (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and they didn't let us do CPR," Elder said. "I don't have a CPR certification any more, but I wanted to help him."

Brett Elder died Sunday morning after a Bay City officer used a Taser to subdue him. Wendy Elder said minutes elapsed as police officers kept her away from the teenager as officers waited for medical personnel to come to the scene.

Relatives and friends said Brett Elder had consumed alcohol before police encountered him at 3:40 a.m. inside an apartment at 210 S. Catherine St.

No date and time has been set for Brett Elder's funeral. Ambrose Funeral Home of Bay City will handle arrangements.

Jessica Gregory, 27, of Bay City, a friend of the late Brett Elder, fought off tears after reading a copy of Cecchini's written statement handed to her by the media.

"Brett could have been saved," Gregory said. "This didn't have to happen."

Michigan State Police officers are investigating Brett Elder's death, and Cecchini said his department is "cooperating fully" with state police investigators.

The Bay City Police Department also is investigating whether officers followed department policy in firing the Taser, according to the police chief.

Jessica Gregory criticized city police officers for not allowing friends and relatives of the late Brett Elder to attend Tuesday's press briefing.

About 16 people gathered in a parking lot along Tenth Street near City Hall immediately after the briefing, some expressing anger at being denied entrance to Commission Chambers.

"Haven't we lost enough already?" Gregory said. "They're gonna take this away from us, too? We have a right to be there."

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