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Friday, May 08, 2009

Arizona man dies after "repeated use" of taser

Gilbert Tafoya, 53 died on May 4, 2009

May 8, 2009
By: Donna Rescorla, The Independent

A Holbrook man died at Winslow Hospital May 4, while detained by the Navajo County Sheriff's Office on a drug-related charge.

He reportedly became unresponsive while being transported to the hospital at the request of the Sheriff's Office.

A press release from the Sheriff's Office stated Gilbert Tafoya, 53, appeared to be chewing and swallowing an unknown substance while being interviewed by deputies late in the afternoon of May 4. Tafoya reportedly refused to cooperate and deputies were unable to determine what he had in his mouth.

The Holbrook Emergency Medical Service were called as a precaution and were transporting Tafoya to Winslow when he became unresponsive.

The cause of Tafoya's death remains under investigation and the nature of the substance he chewed is still unknown, a sheriff's spokesman stated. The body was transported to the Pima County Medical Examiner in Tucson for an autopsy.

The tragedy began as a routine traffic stop on State Route 77, near the Woodruff turnoff about seven miles south of Holbrook, shortly after 3 p.m. K9 Deputy Bill Murray, assigned to the Major Crimes Apprehension Team, made a traffic stop for speeding on a 1996 Cadillac heading toward Holbrook.

Making contact with the driver, Marni Nicol Storms, 39, of Holbrook, Murray determined she was driving suspended and had no proof of insurance. He cited Storms for the infractions and said her vehicle would be towed for a 30-day impound.

The Sheriff's Office reported that Tafoya and another man, 44-year-old Anthony Craig Hall, also of Holbrook, were passengers in the front passenger seat. Murray told the men the Cadillac would be impounded and asked them to get out of the car and stand with Storms near the vehicle of Sgt. Bob Price who had arrived at the scene. Murray then walked his "highly-trained narcotics dog," Rex, around the exterior of the Cadillac. Murray reported the dog went on "active alert" near the passenger door at which time Murray opened the door and Rex alerted to the rear passenger area by scratching the seat.

At that time, Murray informed Storms, Tafoya and Hall that they were being detained for questioning pending a search of the vehicle. Two MCAT detectives arrived at the scene.

Sgt. Price drove the Cadillac to the Sheriff's Office while Murray and the MCAT detectives transported Storms, Tafoya and Hall in separate vehicles.

At the Sheriff's Office, Murray and Price tried to question Tafoya in an interview room but Tafoya reportedly mumbled and avoided eye contact. He allegedly did say he had nothing illegal on him. When Murray emptied Tafoya's pockets, he reportedly found a leather pouch with what appeared to be residue of crystal methamphetamine in the man's front pants pocket.

Murray told Tafoya he would be arrested and booked into Navajo County Jail for possession of drug paraphernalia. He then asked Tafoya if he had methamphetamine on him and warned him the charges would be more serious if it was discovered he had meth in the jail. At that point, the press report stated, Tafoya leaned forward and appeared to swallow something. This occurred shortly after 4 p.m., less than an hour after the initial traffic stop.

After the officers warned Tafoya not to swallow, he reportedly began chewing and turned away from them. The officers then manually attempted to open Tafoya's mouth to prevent him from swallowing, but their efforts were unsuccessful and Tafoya continued chewing.

At that point, Sheriff K.C. Clark came into the interview room and suggested the use of a Taser would cause Tafoya to spit out whatever he was chewing. However, repeated use of the Taser didn't stop Tafoya from continuing to chew nor caused him to spit out the unknown substance.

After being Tased, Tafoya sat and continued to chew. Fearing Tafoya might be swallowing a dangerous quantity of meth or other toxic substance, Sheriff's Office personnel called Holbrook EMS. The ambulance arrived less than 10 minutes after being called and, at that time, Tafoya was able to walk to the gurney and insisted he wasn't sick. Between the Joseph City exit and the Jackrabbit exit on I-40, Tafoya suddenly became unresponsive and the EMTs were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The other two occupants of the Cadillac, Storms and Hall were booked into Navajo County Jail on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Clark said further details will be released as they become known.


Anonymous said...

Dont swallow meth!

Dave Knight said...

Pertinent points from the above police statement – “unknown substance” and “repeated use of the Taser” in circumstances where no officer or member of the public was in danger!

Anonymous said...

swollow meth and this is the result. Taser had nothing to do with the death of him. Enough said.