Family pushes back on coroner’s report on cause of death of teacher tased by LAPD

Family members console one another at a vigil for Keenan Anderson.
Family members console each other at a vigil for Keenan Anderson, who was killed after being tased by LAPD following a traffic collision Jan. 14.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)
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An enlarged heart and cocaine use have been identified as the causes of death for Keenan Anderson, a 31-year-old man who died hours after being shocked multiple times with a Taser by Los Angeles police, according to a new autopsy report.

The L.A. County coroner’s report sheds additional light and brings renewed attention to the Jan. 3 incident, which was widely condemned as an excessive use of police force. The manner of Anderson’s death was undetermined, according to the coroner’s report.

The coroner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

The actions of the officers sparked protests, an internal investigation and calls for changes to police policies related to traffic collisions and the use of stun guns. Anderson’s death attracted heightened attention because he was a cousin of Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network.


“My cousin was alive when he flagged the police. He was alive and after his interaction with the police, he was dead,” Cullors said on Instagram on Friday night. “This idea that the coroner is unable to determine how he died is unacceptable and to point to the substances and point to the enlarged heart and not to the tasers is very, very disturbing.”

According to the coroner, the manner of death may be certified as undetermined “when there is inadequate information regarding the circumstances of death,” according to the coroner’s office. It can also apply “where known information equally supports or conflicts with more than one manner of death or, in cases of unnatural death, when a clear preponderance of evidence supporting a specific manner (homicide, accident, or suicide) is not available.”

In a statement, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said her thoughts are with Anderson’s friends and family, “as I know the release of this report will cause them and many Angelenos great pain as they still mourn this loss.”

“I remain committed to expanding the public safety system to include health professionals and to ensuring LAPD officers receive the best possible training to assist people in crisis,” Bass said. “The coroner raises questions that still must be answered and I await the result of the investigation already underway.”

After Keenan Anderson died after an encounter with LAPD officers in which he was tased repeatedly, relatives filed a $50-million wrongful-death claim.

Jan. 20, 2023

Anderson died the evening of Jan. 3 after encountering L.A. police officers in the area of Venice and Lincoln boulevards.

Police reported Anderson was involved in a crash and had been running in the street while exhibiting “erratic” behavior. Officers contacted Anderson, who ran away after officers requested backup for a DUI investigation.


A group of officers struggled to control Anderson, who resisted their efforts to put him on his stomach and handcuff him. As officers used their body weight and arm holds, another officer discharged a Taser stun gun on him at least six times in 42 seconds, according to details released by authorities.

Several policing experts who reviewed video of the Jan. 3 incident — from cameras worn by officers — for The Times previously said the amount of force used by the officers seemed excessive given Anderson’s actions and that their tactics appeared haphazard.

By the time fire personnel arrived, Anderson was unconscious and his breathing was labored. He was transported to a hospital in Santa Monica, where he was pronounced dead several hours later.

Keenan Anderson, one of three people killed in police custody so far in 2023, was a distant cousin of Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network.

Jan. 15, 2023

Anderson had been visiting family in Los Angeles while on winter break from his teaching job in Washington, D.C.

His family filed a $50-million wrongful-death claim against the city of Los Angeles, which was denied. They are planning to file a lawsuit before the end of the month, according to their attorney Carl Douglas.

“Had officers chosen not to tase Mr. Anderson repeatedly on the back side of his heart, he would still be alive today,” Douglas said. “And there is nothing that was released by the autopsy report that disputes that conclusion.”


The family commissioned a private autopsy, which Douglas said confirmed the presence of cocaine in Anderson’s system, “which explains why there was a detachment from reality, but it doesn’t justify the conduct of officers.”

“Legally the question is not whether they killed Mr. Anderson, but whether their actions were a substantial factor leading to his death. It doesn’t have to be the only factor. But certainly it was a substantial factor,” Douglas said. “There’s no evidence or any indication whatsoever that he would have had a cardiac arrest, a heart attack, had he not been tasered repeatedly.”