Warning: These are my own thoughts and reactions after coming across this video. As far as I know, the police officers have not been tried or disciplined, the autopsy results have not been released, and the judge has closed the case. Everything below is based my own thoughts after seeing the video and reading related press reports.
First I ran across this video in Digg. Be careful, it’s very graphic and shows a man being killed. The images will stay with you for a long time. Do not watch this video if you are squeamish, have never seen someone die, know someone who was killed or injured while in police custody, etc, etc.
You’ve been warned. The video is about 15 minutes long.
Here’s the shocking truth…
The Taser is NOT the most gruesome part of the video
As I watched the video and read the hundreds & hundreds of comments saying that the officer “Tasing” the subject should be tried for murder, I could not help but notice the most gruesome part of the video. The officer at the head of the subject has both hands wrapped below the man’s chin and pressing into the soft tissue of his laryngeal area. The man screams over and over (in progressively quieter outbursts) “I can’t breath, I can’t breath.”
Do you think the Taser is making it hard for him to breath? No, it’s the officer with both hands wrapped around his throat blocking not only the airway, but also blood flow to his head. Add to that a second officer with the palm of his hand pushed against the subjects chin, and you’ve pretty much guaranteed to shut down this man’s airway.
The man’s collapse is due to Asphyxiation, not a result of the Taser.
As an Emergency Medicine physician, I am a specialist in AIRWAY management. Every airway technique that we use to save lives, resuscitate victims and restore spontaneous breathing is violated in this video. The officer may be tried in subduing a subject, but he was inadequately trained in how to do so without causing airway compromise.
In addition, as a physician trained and experienced in running chaotic “codes” in the hospital, it’s my job to supervise every action that goes on. Who was in charge here? Where was the nurse that showed up 5 minutes later to supervise the subduing process?
Even NPR has got the thrust of the story completely wrong
In this article from NPR, there is a still photo from the video. The caption reads,
A still from a video shot by police shows efforts to revive Frederick Williams at the Gwinnett County Detention Center in a suburb of Atlanta in May 2004.
They’ve got that part totally wrong. Efforts to revive didn’t start until several minutes later. The still shot you see on the NPR site is a frame of the two officers successfully asphyxiating Mr. Williams. Pretty brutal when you look at the picture in that light, isn’t it?
The NPR article goes on to talk about “Excited Delirium”, which is a totally non-existent diagnosis. It’s only use is that if you train police officers to recognize “Excited Delirium”, they will rightfully call in EMS personnel to help handle the situation when they see that it has gotten out of hand. Had a paramedic or nurse been on hand when this man was initially dragged into the holding cell in the beginning of the video when it was clear he was suffering from “Excited Delirium”, perhaps someone knowledgeable in airway management could have helped to prevent his death.
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