USA – Autopsy: Excited delirium syndrome, not police Taser, killed East Grand Rapids, Michigan man (2009-12-10)

Published on March 21 2011 by admin

[[SUMMARY / COMMENTS: This is a typical autopsy finding: a “usually placid jazz fan”, Matthew Bolick, “a meteorology student at Central Michigan University”, was praised as a loving brother, an energetic man who was quick with a joke and committed to social justice.” goes into a psychiatric crisis, receives multiple taser shots that fail to subdue him, and dies. The forensic pathologist determines the death is due to “a rare episode of excited delirium syndrome” that caused the 30-year-old’s heart attack, which was the immediate cause of death. “In Bolick’s case, Start said his autopsy found no internal injuries from police contact with the 30-year-old. He also found no external wounds that couldn’t be explained by Bolick’s jump through the window and wrestling with authorities.” And certainly no taser! ]]

The Grand Rapids Press, by Nate Reens

EAST GRAND RAPIDS — Matthew Bolick’s behavior of jumping through a ground-floor picture window, slugging an East Grand Rapids public safety officer, and easily absorbing Taser shots indicated something abnormal was happening to the usually placid jazz fan.

Autopsy results explain the 30-year-old’s conduct and his subsequent death on Nov. 16 as a rare episode of excited delirium syndrome, forensic pathologist Dr. David Start ruled Thursday.

Start said Bolick’s death was not related to multiple shots from Tasers used by Sgt. Brian Davis and Officer Gary Parker during their efforts to subdue the victim after a call for help from his father.

The psychotic disorder, punctuated by delusions, aggressive agitation and fits of superhuman strength, determined as the cause of death led to a sudden heart attack, Start said. Start said acute psychosis was a contributing factor to Bolick’s death.

The delirium condition — which is often criticized by civil liberties advocates as a cover up for police brutality — generally is related to drug use. Start said Bolick’s toxicology screens showed no evidence of narcotics in the victim’s system.

“This appears to be purely a psychotic form,” Start said. “There was nothing else involved and we don’t know triggered such a change in him from what others describe.”

Bolick, who died inside his parents’ 2110 Heather St. SE house, had displayed moments of conduct inconsistent with his personality in recent weeks, police said.

The 5-foot-6-inch tall, 135 pound Bolick, a meteorology student at Central Michigan University, was praised as a loving brother, an energetic man who was quick with a joke and committed to social justice.

About the same time as Bolick’s death last month, the delirium syndrome was recognized by the American College of Emergency Physicians, which will study how do diagnose the illness to prevent deaths.

Research shows about 250 people annual die from the condition and 95 percent of those are men with an average age of 36, according to statistics compiled by Dr. Mark L. DeBard, professor of emergency medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

The syndrome is poorly understood and the best response to a person exhibiting problems is to sedate the subject, said Ken Johnson, a Spectrum Health emergency room doctor.

Johnson hopes to educate local public safety departments and emergency crews about the symptoms and ways to resolve potential conflicts.

“No one knows why some instances are fatal and some are not,” Johnson said.

Bolick’s father, Stephen Bolick, declined comment Thursday, referring calls to the family’s attorney, William Mills.

Mills could not be reached for comment.

Mark Herald, director of public safety for East Grand Rapids, said he had faith in Davis’ and Parker’s actions during their response to Bolick’s aggression.

The pair remain on paid administrative leave until Grand Rapids police complete their investigation of the incident.

Herald said the officers will return to duty when the probe is over.

He said he was aware of the delirium syndrome, but have not been trained to handle it because it is so infrequent.

“The officers knew they were dealing with something that wasn’t right,” Herald said, reserving further comment until the external probe was finished.

The American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns in the past that the delirium syndrome is being used to clear police from in-custody deaths and by Taser International to defend itself in lawsuits.

In Bolick’s case, Start said his autopsy found no internal injuries from police contact with the 30-year-old. He also found no external wounds that couldn’t be explained by Bolick’s jump through the window and wrestling with authorities.

“I looked very carefully at all of those issues,” Start said.

“There is no indication of police involvement.”

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/12/autopsy_excited_delirium_syndr.html

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