April 4, 2010

Taser Autopsy: Patrick Burns (Sangamon County)

Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone says that Patrick Burns died from 'excited delirium' brought on by cocaine use.   Many of us think that Susan Boone isn't a very good coroner.

The family of Patrick Burns doesn't agree. A pathologist hired by the family says he died from a brain injury caused by lack of oxygen due to being hog-tied after he was shot 21 times with Tasers by unidentified Sangamon County sheriff’s deputies. [SOURCE]

Ralston, who performed an autopsy and reviewed medical records, found that oxygen to Burns’ brain was cut off when he was hog-tied and transported stomach-down to Memorial Medical Center.

The incident took place Jan. 23. Burns, under the influence of cocaine and wearing only underwear and a long-sleeved t-shirt, broke into a house near his home, where he beat the woman resident. She managed to get him outside before deputies arrived.

Investigators said he was calm when police arrived but went berserk when deputies tried photographing injuries he apparently received while breaking windows in the woman’s home.

Four unidentified deputies deployed their Tasers to control Burns after he began fighting and screaming in a muddy ditch.

During the inquest, John Yard, an Illinois State Police special agent, testified that Burns was shouting and struggling for the first part of his ambulance ride, but he calmed down by the time he reached the hospital.

Ralston said he wants to listen to audio logs from the ambulance company before finalizing his report. If Burns was hog-tied, prone and quiet for an extended period during the trip to the hospital, that would support the conclusion that he suffered a brain injury due to oxygen deprivation, the doctor said.

Ralston said he also wants to see the Taser barbs and photographs of Burns’ injuries from the barbs to determine how deeply the barbs penetrated. If the barbs went deep, it wouldn’t take much electricity for Taser shocks to have impaired heart function, the doctor said.

Burns had a Taser probe in his chest when he arrived at the hospital, and diagrams prepared by Ralston show he had three other wounds from probes in his chest.

Taser International, manufacturer of the stun gun, last fall issued a bulletin recommending that police not aim Tasers at chests due to what the company said is a low risk of “adverse cardiac event.”

Under questioning by Burns’ relatives while the inquest jury was deliberating, Dr. Jessica Bowman, who performed the autopsy for the coroner’s office, dismissed the idea that Taser shocks could have contributed to Burns’ death. She compared Taser International’s recommendation to a recommended dose of aspirin: Varying from recommendations does not mean any harm will occur, she said.

This current is very superficial,” Bowman said. “You may not realize how deep your heart is inside you.”

We do not have a death penalty for domestic violence or resisting arrest or refusing to have your photo taken. The Sangamon County police department seemed to think that they are authorized to use their tasers for extra-judicial electrocution whenever the mood strikes.

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