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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Police stun gun, heart disease both contributed to death of woman, 87

September 2, 2010
Rick Bella, The Oregonian

Cause of death for an 87-year-old Boring woman who collapsed after being hit by a police stun gun is officially listed as chronic heart disease, the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office said Thursday.

However, Dr. Larry Lewman, deputy state medical examiner, said the manner of death for Phyllis A. Owens, who had a pacemaker since 2007, was receiving a 50,000-volt jolt from a Taser fired by a Clackamas County sheriff's deputy.

"The cause of her death is hypertensive cardio-vascular disease," Lewman said. "But it occurred because of the electric stun gun, which probably intercepted a pacemaker wire."

Lewman said this was the first such case he has investigated in 39 years of practicing forensic medicine. He said he polled medical examiners nationwide but got no response.

"This is rare," Lewman said. "Other medical examiners may have seen this before. But if so, they never said."

Meanwhile, the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office is reviewing the actions of Deputies Steve Shelly and Alan Alderman, who were placed on administrative leave after the July 8 incident.

Owens was shot with a Taser after about 15 minutes of tense negotiations, during which Owens appeared to be brandishing a semiautomatic handgun. Deputies were called after Owens threatened a manager at her mobile home park.

However, a subsequent report from the sheriff's office indicated Owens actually was waving a pellet gun replica of a firearm.

At one point, deputies convinced Owens to put down the pellet gun, which she laid on her porch railing. But when one deputy advanced toward her, she reached for the pellet gun again.

The other deputy, believing Owens was reaching for a handgun, shot her with a Taser.

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