From Nashville Scene - Photo Caption: "Say hello to my little friend, Mr. Excited Delirium"
May 20, 2009
By Jack Silverman, Nashville Scene
If Metro police did not use excessive force in the controversial 2005 death of Patrick Lee after a Taser incident, as was determined by a federal jury this week, I'd hate to see what happens when they do use excessive force.
Lee, who was under the influence of LSD and had stripped naked in the Mercy Lounge parking lot, was surely acting strangely. But clearly he wasn't armed, and at worst he was a public nuisance. That three Metro cops would need 19 Taser shots to subdue an unarmed, naked 21-year-old seems suspect, to say the least. And if he was that hard to subdue, what was the urgency if he wasn't threatening anyone?
The verdict is particularly troubling because the listed cause of death, "excited delirium," seems to have become a vaguely defined code term for unexplained deaths in police custody, particularly involving Tasers, as can be seen over and over and over and over again.
In a story reported shortly after the death, Metro medical examiner Bruce Levy told the Scene that, after a preliminary autopsy, "There was no clear-cut cause of death," and that he found "a multitude of superficial injuries" consistent with a parking lot struggle, but no broken bones or internal injuries.
And for those who think the LSD might have killed Lee, they're wrong. Pretty much any medical text on the subject will tell you that, while the drug can make you act pretty crazy, it won't kill you, even in very large doses.
I'd be curious to know how many deaths attributed to "excited delirium" did not involve Tasers, or at least police intervention of some sort.
Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas' thoughts on the subject? "The Metropolitan Police Department continues to believe that Taser devices are an asset to law enforcement that actually help save lives and reduce injuries to officers and suspects."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
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