Taser did not contribute to death, autopsy reveals

Taser did not contribute to death, autopsy reveals

December 16th, 2009 by Jacqueline Koch in News

PDF: Lamar autopsy

Previous Erlanger statement

"This is a tragic situation and one that Erlanger is taking very seriously. Our hearts go out to all the families involved. Let me assure you that we are reviewing all aspects of this situation and fully cooperating with all ongoing investigations. Once all the information about this incident is known, appropriate actions will be taken." - CEO Jim Brexler

Many factors may have made a 53-year-old man more prone to death, but being stunned with a Taser was not one of them, according to an autopsy released by the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office.

Edward Buckner died Nov. 27, shortly after he was stunned with a Taser by an Erlanger security officer. Hamilton County Medical Examiner Dr. Frank King ruled the death natural, caused by a blood clot in the lungs.

"In my opinion, the Taser event did not cause the death or make a significant contribution to the death," Dr. King wrote. "At autopsy there were no significant injuries or signs of foul play."

Mr. Buckner's family declined comment when reached by phone Tuesday and referred questions to its attorney, James Logan Jr. of Cleveland.

Mr. Logan did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Chattanooga police said that, at the time of his death, Mr. Buckner, who was a patient at the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute, was being treated for dehydration developed from diabetes at Erlanger. He was being released from the hospital when he started fighting with hospital police, officials said.

Officer Shane Webb used a Taser on him before Mr. Buckner was taken back to Moccasin Bend and found unresponsive. He was then returned to Erlanger and pronounced dead.

According to the autopsy, Mr. Buckner died about 2:20 p.m., though an exact time is not known. The medical examiner's office was notified about 3:40 p.m., records show.

The official cause of death, bilateral pulmonary emboli, occurs when one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked, according to the Mayo Clinic. In most cases, the condition is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from other parts of the body, typically the legs. Mr. Buckner had a blood clot in his right leg, the autopsy shows.

Symptoms include a sudden shortness of breath, chest pain and a cough that may contain blood, according to the clinic.

Risk factors include being confined to a bed for a long period of time and dehydration, which may thicken the blood and make clots more likely, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Toxicology reports showed that Mr. Buckner tested positive for the antidepressant Citalopram, whose lesser side effects include agitation, confusion and trouble breathing, according to the Mayo Clinic. Rare side effects include irritability, dryness of mouth, increased thirst, seizures or unusual tiredness, or weakness.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation opened a case file on the incident on Nov. 30. Because the investigation involves potential wrongdoing, not just that related to the death, the case has not been closed, said TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm.

"Just because the autopsy shows it was natural causes doesn't mean our investigation is closed," she said. "It's just one part of our investigation. We take everything into account - the autopsy and witness statements and subject statements and any lab work."

Results are then turned over to the Hamilton County district attorney's office, which determines whether to bring charges.

Erlanger hospital officials said once they study the medical examiner's report and the results of the Chattanooga police investigation, they will complete a thorough internal review and respond accordingly, according to a statement released by the hospital.

"With full recognition that this was an unfortunate and tragic event, we now know the results of the medical examiner's report and can now move forward and complete our own review," the statement said.