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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Officer used Taser to stun addict

October 13, 2010
Barbara Brown - hamilton spectator

With five police officers struggling to control a crazed, violent coke addict, a senior OPP officer said he had no choice but to fire his Taser several times.

Staff Sergeant Dean Skelding said he delivered three shocks to the body of Jeffrey Mark Marreel, 36, but set the device on “stun mode” only. Skelding said he did not want to risk striking any of his officers with the full impact of the electroshock weapon.

In stun mode, the Taser is held against the person’s body to deliver a penetrating pain but does not completely incapacitate the suspect’s muscles, as it does when the weapon is fired from a short distance with its small, dartlike projectiles attached.

Marreel showed no response to being stunned three times, Dr. Jack Stanborough and the coroner’s jury heard.

The confrontation on June 23, 2008, began when Marreel jumped out from behind a dumpster, wielding a piece of metal at the officers, near Front Road and Fisher’s Glen Road in Norfolk, just northeast of Turkey Point. The man appeared to be in state of “excited delirium” after a weekend of smoking, snorting and injecting cocaine.

Marreel was ranting to himself and shouting obscenities at the police. He ran barefoot up a steep hill and tried to pull down the “Welcome to Fisher’s Glen” sign.

Five officers attempted to restrain Marreel and were joined by a sixth officer, said coroner’s counsel Karen Shea.

Marreel, who was in and out of jail and well known to police, was checked out at the scene by paramedics, who noted lacerations to his head but deemed him fit enough to go to the Simcoe OPP station.

About an hour after his detention, Marreel went into medical distress and was taken to Norfolk General Hospital, where he died from acute cocaine poisoning.

OPP training officer Liam Brennan told the inquest that front-line officers have viewed a training video on excited delirium and have a prisoner care manual usually posted in custody areas, which sets out the signs and symptoms. But Norfolk Constable Ken DeCloet said he felt the training on excited delirium was “woefully inadequate,” given the prevalence of crack addiction.

Excited delirium is a controversial term used to explain the deaths of some individuals in police custody who have exhibited a combination of bizarre symptoms, including agitation, paranoia, violent behaviour, insensitivity to pain, profuse sweating, elevated body temperature, superhuman strength and rapid heart rate.

Lawyer William MacKenzie, who represents the Ontario Provincial Police Association, asked the training officer if he believed Marreel actually experienced excited delirium, given that he was examined by paramedics and not considered in need of medical treatment.

“Not from what I heard, sir,” Brennan said.

A suspect in police custody who is thought to be in the throes of excited delirium, which can be fatal, is supposed to be taken for immediate medical treatment.

The inquest continues today.

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