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Man shocked with Taser by Burbank police died as he lay unaided for 14 minutes in barricade 'hot zone'

The Los Angeles County coroner's office has deferred ruling on the cause of death of a man who was shocked with a Taser during a fight with Burbank police officers earlier this week, officials said Friday.

Officials performed an autopsy on the body of Thomas Binkley — who police said went about 14 minutes without medical aid while authorities were in a standoff with his brother — but ordered additional tests, which could delay a ruling by up to nine months, said Lt. David Smith of the coroner's office. He did not know which tests were ordered.

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The events that led up to the 66-year-old man's death began around 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, when his daughter-in-law reported to police that Binkley had come to her Burbank home and threatened her life.

Two Burbank police officers were dispatched to Binkley's home in the 500 block of North Mariposa Street, where they spoke with him outside.

Binkley engaged in a verbal confrontation with the officers before physically assaulting them, according to Burbank police Sgt. Claudio Losacco.

A fight ensued, during which one officer shocked Binkley with a Taser at least once, causing him to fall to the ground.

It was not clear exactly how many times, or for how many seconds, the Taser was deployed. The devices used in Burbank automatically stay on for five seconds after the trigger is depressed, unless it's shut off or held down.

Around the same time that Binkley was subdued, his 65-year-old brother, Steve Binkley, appeared in the doorway of the home and threatened officers while holding a handgun. He refused officers' orders to put the gun down.

Facing a man with a gun, the two officers backed away from Thomas Binkley — who at that point was still alive  to take cover and call for back-up.

Steve Binkley subsequently barricaded himself in the his home for about 40 minutes, which police said delayed officers from giving aid to his brother. His elderly mother and her caretaker were also inside.

At some point during the standoff, officers formed a team and, using a shield, approached Thomas Binkley, who was in what police called a "hot zone," or threatened area. They carried him across the street to where paramedics were waiting.

Cellphone video shot by a witness shows officers carrying the man across the street at 7:52 p.m. Burbank paramedics attempted to resuscitate the man before pronouncing him dead at 8:20 p.m., according to Smith.

This marks the Burbank department's first Taser-related death, according to police officials.

After he was stunned, Thomas Binkley lay on the ground for about 14 minutes without receiving aid before authorities carried him away, Losacco said. The man stopped breathing during that time.

Meanwhile, police made contact with Steve Binkley by telephone, after which he voluntarily exited the home without incident. While executing a search warrant at the residence the following morning, investigators recovered a handgun.

Steve Binkley was charged Thursday with two counts of resisting an executive officer by means of threats and violence and one count of exhibiting a firearm in the presence of an officer in a rude, angry and threatening manner, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Jail records show that he was released from custody early Friday morning after posting bail and is due in court later this month.

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Both police officers, identified in Binkley's criminal complaint as Alexander Gutierrez and Stephen Santiago, joined the police force more than six years ago.

The agency's internal affairs bureau is investigating the incident, and representatives of the district attorney's office were notified, which is customary with in-custody deaths.

"This is going to be a lengthy investigation," Losacco said.

Audio of the incident was captured by recording devices carried by officers, though Burbank police have not said whether they would release the recordings.

Through mid-August of this year, Burbank police had logged seven incidents in which a Taser was deployed. During all of last year, officers used the weapon in the field a total of 10 times, according to the agency.

Under the department's policy, officers involved in uses of force that result in death are placed on administrative leave for a minimum of three days, and until the police chief authorizes their return.

Tchekmedyian writes for the Burbank Leader.

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