On May 1, 2011, twenty-six year old Marcus Brown, of Waterbury , Connecticut, died after a Waterbury police officer discharged a department-issued “conducted electrical device” – specifically a TASER® Model X-26™ – into Mr. Brown’s chest while Mr. Brown was in custody in the backseat of a Waterbury Police patrol car. Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Leonard C. Boyle, then serving as the acting State’s Attorney for the Waterbury Judicial District, requested the Connecticut State Police to investigate the matter. On the basis of that investigation the Deputy Chief State’s Attorney concludes that Waterbury Police Officers did not violate Connecticut penal statutes in their interaction with Marcus Brown on May 1, 2011.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE DEATH
Connecticut State Police detectives processed the crime scene, searched the decedent’s apartment and the patrol car in question, photographed all relevant evidence, and interviewed all hospital personnel and police officers involved in the incident. Detectives also reviewed video recordings of the St. Mary’s Hospital reception area and parking lot. State Police detectives also seized records downloaded from the TASER® in question, serial # XOO-389849. The investigation established the following:
At 12:37 a.m. on Sunday morning, May 1, 2011, Marcus Brown entered the reception area of Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut. A few minutes later the emergency room receptionist called for hospital security after Mr. Brown cursed at her and acted in a way that caused her to fear for her safety. When security officers arrived, Mr. Brown threatened and cursed at them, alarming the security officers, other hospital personnel, and persons seated in the reception area.
The receptionist then called the Waterbury Police Department for assistance. Officers Adrian Sanchez and Brian Brunelli responded. By the time Officers Sanchez and Brunelli arrived, hospital security personnel had handcuffed Mr. Brown, yet he remained highly agitated. Based on the information received from hospital personnel and their own observations, the officers placed Mr. Brown under arrest for breach of peace, General Statutes § 53a-181, and escorted him to the backseat of their Waterbury Police patrol car, which was parked outside the reception area.
Officer Sanchez and hospital security personnel stood by the car as Officer Brunelli reentered the hospital to obtain additional information about the complaint. Mr. Brown soon began to kick the driver’s side window and door of the car, prompting Officer Sanchez to threaten the use of his department-issued TASER®, if Mr. Brown continued to do so. Mr. Brown responded that he would comply with the order and Officer Sanchez did not discharge the TASER® at that time.
In a short time, however, Mr. Brown again began to kick at the door and window of the patrol car. Officer Sanchez opened the driver’s side rear door and again threatened to discharge the TASER®. On this occasion, however, Mr. Brown did not comply. Instead, he continued to kick at the officer, showing no signs of obeying his commands. Officer Sanchez then discharged the TASER®, shooting the weapon’s two electrical prongs into Mr. Brown’s chest. Officer Sanchez states – and the TASER® records confirm - that he discharged the weapon only once, for five seconds.
Having been struck by the TASER®, Mr. Brown immediately quieted and assured Officer Sanchez that he would not act out any further. According to Officer Sanchez and hospital security officers, Mr. Brown remained responsive and in no apparent physical distress after the deployment of the TASER®. Officer Sanchez remained standing behind the patrol car, monitoring Mr. Brown’s behavior and awaiting Officer Brunelli.
A short time later Office Sanchez returned to the patrol car in an effort to gain biographical information from Mr. Brown. He found Mr. Brown to be unresponsive and in severe physical distress. Officer Sanchez and hospital personnel immediately carried Mr. Brown into the emergency room where he was found to have no pulse. Despite the efforts of the emergency room medical personnel, Mr. Brown could not be revived and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
The body of Marcus Brown was sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner where an autopsy was performed on May 2, 2011. Based upon the results of that autopsy and a review of all police reports, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver II found both the cause and manner of death to be undetermined. Specifically, Dr. Carver concluded that because Marcus Brown remained conscious and alert for some period of time after being struck with the TASER®, the use of that device cannot be determined to have caused Mr. Brown’s death.
The United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, issued an extensive report in May 2011 regarding deaths that follow the use of “conducted energy devices” such as TASERS®. Of specific importance to this matter, the Department of Justice report noted that “[t]here is no conclusive medical evidence within the state of current research that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term [conducted energy device] exposure in healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons. Current medical research in humans and animals suggests that a single exposure of less than 15 seconds from a TASER® X-26™ or similar model [conducted energy device] is not a stress of a magnitude that separates it from other stress-inducing components of restraint or subdual.” “Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption,” May 2011, Page 3 (and sources cited therein). Citing three separate prospective studies on human volunteers, the report states that “[t]here were no cardiac dysrhythmias among healthy volunteers exposed to one discharge of a TASER® model X26™ for less than 15 seconds ….”
In addition, the Deputy Chief State’s Attorney has reviewed the Waterbury Police Department Standard Operating Procedure regarding the use of TASERS®. Officer Sanchez’s deployment of that device on May 1, 2011 does not appear to violate those procedures.
In sum, Marcus Brown’s unfortunate death on May 1, 2011 cannot be attributed medically to his having been struck by the TASER®. Moreover, because Officer Sanchez discharged the TASER® only once for a period of five seconds in order to prevent Marcus Brown from further actions that might harm himself, others, or property, Officer Sanchez could not reasonably believe that his actions were likely to cause serious or lasting physical injury to Mr. Brown. On the basis of these findings, it is concluded that neither Officer Sanchez nor any other member of the Waterbury Police Department violated Connecticut penal statutes in their interaction with Marcus Brown on May 1, 2011. This investigation is therefore closed.
The Deputy Chief State’s Attorney extends his sincere thanks to the Connecticut State Police, specifically the Western District Major Crime Squad and Detective Daniel Jewiss, for their investigation of this matter and to the Waterbury Police Department and Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Wayne Carver II for their cooperation.