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Man Dies After Police Use Taser

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Reseda man who broke into a neighbor’s apartment ranting about his life being in danger and apparently under the influence of cocaine, died after police shot him with a Taser stun gun, police said.

The cause of 24-year-old Douglas Charles’ death remained under investigation Tuesday pending the results of an autopsy. Los Angeles Police Lt. William Hall, who investigates officer-related deaths, said Charles died of apparent cardiac arrest that may have been drug-induced.

“It’s my understanding that the Taser doesn’t cause heart attacks but that drugs quite often do. But it would be premature to make any judgment,” Hall said.

Hall also said Charles’ arrest and the use of the Taser by Officer Ulysses Taylor in the Monday incident appeared to conform with department policy. None of the nine officers involved, including Taylor, a 22-year-old probationary officer, have been removed from active duty or placed under internal investigation, Hall said.

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“It looks like they were following proper procedures,” he said.

Charles’ girlfriend told investigators that he injected himself with cocaine before he began acting strangely and violently Monday evening, bursting into a neighbor’s apartment, breaking furniture and saying, “They’re going to kill me. They’re going to kill me,” Hall and neighbors said.

Charles also ingested either pills or a small packet that he pulled out of his pants pocket during the rampage, according to Hall and neighbor Rosemarie Pape, whose husband managed to hold Charles down with a chair until police arrived.

Candi Gibson, Charles’ girlfriend and the mother of his 1-year-old son, said Tuesday that she felt the use of the Taser had been unnecessary “because he was so high.” She said Charles, who had used cocaine before, injected himself with the drug about 6:15 p.m.

Gibson also blamed police for not taking Charles directly to a hospital, but placing him inside a patrol car, where he began convulsing and went into cardiac arrest, she said.

“If they could’ve taken him right away, it could’ve saved him,” said Gibson, who shared Charles’ apartment in the 6400 block of Reseda Boulevard.

Hall said that police called paramedics as soon as they learned Charles might have taken drugs, and that the paramedics took him to AMI Tarzana Regional Medical Center when he went into cardiac arrest. He arrived there at 7:46 p.m. and was pronounced dead.

Used routinely by police to subdue suspects and jail inmates, the Taser fires a dart charged with 50,000 volts of electricity that temporarily stuns and immobilizes its target. Last year, Los Angeles police used the Taser 134 times, officials said.

Seventeen people in Los Angeles County have died after being shocked with Tasers between 1983, when the coroner’s office began documenting such cases, and 1989, spokesman Bob Dambacher said Tuesday. He said none of those deaths could be directly attributed to the Taser, although it was found to be a contributing factor in two deaths. In those cases, the victims had been under the influence of either PCP or cocaine, and one was taking medication for a congenital heart problem.

Dambacher said there were no deaths following Taser use documented in 1990.

Charles’ death appears to be the second this year to follow the use of the Taser. The coroner’s office is still investigating the death of a Pasadena man, Douglas L. Danville, 47, who suffered a fatal heart attack in April after being subdued with a Taser, Dambacher said.

In Reseda on Monday, apartment manager Caroline Tucci phoned police after Charles came downstairs to the stucco complex’s pool and alarmed residents with his odd behavior. He seemed preoccupied by scraps of carpeting he held in his hands. He picked nervously at weeds and a tree trunk, all the while muttering about people coming to get him, Tucci said.

Charles--described by Tucci as usually friendly and polite--forced his way into Tucci’s apartment, then went upstairs to the unit occupied by Charles and Rosemarie Pape, where he came crashing backward through the screen door, they said.

Charles Pape finally managed to hold the younger man down with one of the dining chairs.

“The sucker was strong, and he was like a wild man,” Pape said.

Charles was subdued as soon as he was struck by a Taser dart, Hall said--and the officers handcuffed him, connecting his bound ankles with a cord to the handcuffs. They carried him downstairs hogtied, stopping once “to get a better grip,” Tucci said.

Hall did not expect an autopsy to be performed until the end of the week. Toxicology reports take at least two weeks to complete.


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