Heart disease, not Taser, killed Fort Worth man, autopsy finds

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A Fort Worth man who died in May after police shocked him with a Taser during a drug raid died of natural causes, the Tarrant County medical examiner has ruled.

The shock from the Taser did not contribute to the death of 34-year-old Jermaine Darden, said Linda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.

Police have said Darden, who weighed 340 pounds, resisted arrest after officers kicked open an unlocked door of a house in the 3200 block of Thannisch Avenue where officers suspected that drugs were being sold.

Darden’s mother previously told the Star-Telegram that her son had asthma and was not resisting arrest but rather struggling to breathe after officers put him facedown on the floor. She said several people in the house were trying to tell the officers about Darden’s health problem.

“They were trying to lay him on his stomach, and he can’t breathe while he’s on his stomach,” Donna Randle said. “He was trying to turn over so he could breathe. But they ignored us and Tased him.”

She said officers used excessive force.

The medical examiner’s office ruled Darden’s cause of death as “sudden cardiac death” due to heart disease and “application of restraint.”

Anderson said “application of restraint” refers to Darden’s hands being handcuffed behind him. She said, however, that forensic pathologists believe that being handcuffed had no impact on Darden’s death and that he could have died of heart disease even if he’d not been restrained.

Police had a “no-knock” warrant to search the house. It indicates that they were looking for concealed cocaine, materials used to package and prepare drugs for distribution, electronic and written records, as well as cash and weapons.

According to the autopsy report, officers used the Taser on Darden twice — for five seconds each time — after he failed to comply with instructions during the execution of the search warrant.

A team of forensic pathologists reviewed the case, including video that showed Darden being stunned with the Taser and continuing to struggle.

“He was subsequently handcuffed while in a prone position and was then placed into a seated position with his hands behind his back,” the report states. “At this point, he was noted to be alert and breathing on the video.”

Darden told authorities that he had asthma and was feeling short of breath. He later became unresponsive, and resuscitation efforts were begun, the report stated. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Toxicology tests determined that Darden had a synthetic cannabinoid in his system.

The Police Department’s major-case unit investigated the death. Sgt. Kelly Peel, a police spokesman, said Tuesday that he could not comment on the investigation’s results because of “pending litigation.”

No lawsuit had been filed as of Tuesday.

Darden was on deferred-adjudication probation stemming from a 2006 charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, court records show.

Police arrested five people at the house, some on outstanding warrants and at least one on suspicion of possessing drugs, according to a police report.

The report says officers also seized ammunition, a white powdery substance, a green leafy substance, capsules containing a brown substance, three telephones and a credit card.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd

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