Failures

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
police, police brutality, tasers



Cops 'Help' Naked, Possibly-Suicidal Schizophrenic Man By Tasing Him To Death

from the barging-in-[electric]-guns-blazing dept

"Excited delirium" makes an appearance in another case where medical help for a mentally ill person was sought, but instead, police arrived and delivered someone to an early grave. (h/t Radley Balko)

22-year-old Adam Trammell was spotted wandering the halls of his group home completely naked. Feeling the young man was experiencing a psychotic break, the neighbor whose door Trammell had knocked on called the police. When officers arrived, they found Trammell in a distinctly non-threatening state: naked in the shower.

The first officer to reach for Trammell was pushed away. After that, the deluge began.

Two West Milwaukee police officers who broke down a mentally ill man's door and tased him in the shower 18 times before he died will not be criminally charged, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm has decided.

More than 30 minutes elapsed between the first time the officers deployed their Tasers and the time Adam Trammell lost consciousness in the hallway of his apartment building, known to officers as a place that housed people with mental illnesses, according to police reports.

In between, Trammell suffered a black eye, a broken rib and more than two dozen cuts and bruises, according to the medical examiner's report.

On the officers' body camera footage, Trammell can be heard screaming in agony.

He spent some of his last conscious moments vomiting profusely.

As is noted in the article, none of the officers will be charged. The DA's office [PDF] has already cleared them of wrongdoing, claiming the force was not excessive and there was no malicious intent present in responding officers. All they wanted to do was "help." And they helped the only way they knew how: by hurting.

Trammell did not respond to verbal commands, so naturally officers deployed their Tasers, hitting a naked, wet man standing in his own bathroom multiple times with five-second cycles. In between tasings, Trammell was told to "relax" and stand up. Officers claim in the recap [PDF] of the body cam video that Trammell was "resisting" and "not following orders." In order to achieve their goal of bringing Trammell to a waiting ambulance, officers felt the need to tase Trammell roughly every 30 seconds for nine straight minutes.

The coroner's report cleared the officers. Manner of death: undetermined. Cause of death? Excited delirium. The DA's report notes there is some skepticism about whether or not "excited delirium" is a real thing (rather than a convenient cause of death determination hand-rolled by Taser's in-house counsel) but ultimately decides to side with the coroner. This means the DA has decided to side with Taser against science, as no medical body (the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association) recognizes "excited delirium" as an authentic medical condition.

If nothing else, the actions taken by the responding officers appears to violate departmental policy. According to the policy quoted in the DA's report, officers are instructed to minimize use of restraint or engage in physical struggles. They are also supposed to hold off on Taser deployments until EMS is on the scene, and then only if absolutely necessary to approach the subject. Officers are also told to use force only in cases where the subject presents a danger to others.

In this case, the EMS unit does not appear to have arrived until after the routine, repeated tasings began. Considering Trammell's condition and location -- soaking wet in bathroom whose floor was "covered with water" -- the decision to deploy an electric shock seems to have posed more danger to Trammell and the officers than anything Trammell himself was doing, or could possibly have done. According to police reports, no one officers spoke to expressed a concern Trammell might harm others. Every single person recorded stated they were worried Trammell might harm himself. If this was the only concern, allowing the situation to de-escalate would not have resulted in harm to Trammell, who was naked, contained in a small room, with no apparent access to weapons.

Even the Taser deployments were sloppy. An additional Taser deployment, triggered by one officer after a discussion with other officers about the limited utility of their Tasers, is given the instant exoneration treatment in the officer's report. The unbelievable wordsmithery conjures up a dangerous electronic device that apparently triggers itself if it senses people are talking about it.

Rohleder pulled the trigger of his Taser one more time from the hallway, while the leads to its wires were still embedded in Trammell’s body. Rohleder told investigators “this was not an intentional deployment, but occurred spontaneously when the West Allis police asked him if the Taser wires were still connected,” according to Chisholm's letter.

No officers will be charged. It's quite possible no one will even be disciplined, despite their inability to follow internal policies. A man who posed no threat to anyone but himself died at the hands of officers who simply couldn't fathom why a schizophrenic man who was found wandering the halls naked muttering about the devil wouldn't quickly respond to shouted commands by strangers who had barged into his bathroom to "save" him.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 1:05pm

    So an innocent man was tortured to death. Certainly the gruesome work of groups like the Islamic State, right?

    Lesson learned: when it's them doing it it's terrorism, when it's us then it's business as usual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:04pm

      Re:

      Holy fuck. Someone strip these "officers" of their clothing, toss them into a shower then tase them until they die vomiting in the hallway. All of them.

      This is beyond ridiculous to the point we're now subject to the violent whims of a police state lacking any kind of oversight or responsibility. I hope every last one of them suffers 100 times the suffering they've inflicted on others. Fuck them all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 2:26pm

        'You do not beat the monster by becoming one.'

        I can understand where such thinking might come from(frustration, disgust, fury), and to an extent I can sympathize, but it's important to resist it as best you can, even if reading stories like this can make that very difficult at times.

        That they have become monstrous in their actions and persons does not mean you have to. If they are vile and disgusting because of what they do(or don't do in the case of the DA) then turning around and doing or wishing the same done to them merely taints you with the same sickness, and undermines your position('If X is bad when they do it, yet you are proposing that X be done to them, then clearly X isn't that bad...').

        'They had it coming because...' is how so many atrocities are justified and committed, with the unacceptable given a pass if not supported because hey, if the guilty party hadn't done/been X, then it wouldn't have happened, so while it would be a terrible crime for anyone else to suffer it, clearly they had it coming and shoulder all the blame.

        By all means be disgusted and infuriated by stories like this where those tasked with serving the public instead abuse their power to the point of killing someone simply because they could, but do your best to avoid taking it to the point that they are at, where terrible things are acceptable because 'they had it coming'.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:47pm

          The double standard is deafening.

          They will not ever stop killing people until forced to do so. You can't stop an abusive government through nonviolent means. The founders of our country recognized it and specifically left the option of an armed uprising to keep it honest. The established system has whitewashed the murder and is trying to make it go away. If the exact same thing had happened to a police officer, the people responsible would be on the hook for hundreds of charges and centuries in prison.

          The double standard is deafening.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:54pm

            Re: The double standard is deafening.

            You can't stop an abusive government through nonviolent means.

            Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandella showed that you can.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Roger Strong (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 3:24pm

              Re: Re: The double standard is deafening.

              That's one way to view it. That other is that when violent opposition becomes effective, the nonviolent guy can give you a graceful way out.

              There's a third major example of 20th century passive resistance. But it wasn't very effective during the Holocaust.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Uriel-238 (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 3:37pm

                Nonviolent resistence

                I suspect nonviolent means of pressuring government depends on shaming the state in the international community, which is going to be hard to do in the current regime of the US (which, like its peerless leader, has no shame).

                Then it's just a matter of protesting in such a way that the state engages in oppressive measures and making sure media of atrocities become available to the world.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 1:46pm

    Like the Church sign meme...

    Every single person recorded stated they were worried Trammell might harm himself. If this was the only concern, allowing the situation to de-escalate would not have resulted in harm to Trammell, who was naked, contained in a small room, with no apparent access to weapons.

    "Don't let mental illness kill you, let the police help."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 1:52pm

      Re: Like the Church sign meme...

      It's actually a great way to kill yourself. Call the police and say whatever about yourself and wait. Of course it will hurt a lot but those are details.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 1:51pm

    If 'fresulted in death' isn't excessive, nothing is

    The DA's office [PDF] has already cleared them of wrongdoing, claiming the force was not excessive and there was no malicious intent present in responding officers.

    After you clear the bile from your mouth that came from reading that, just let it sink in for a moment what the DA is saying here. Tasing someone to death is not considered 'excessive force' by this DA, and apparently no-one else in a position of authority.

    You can literally electrocute someone to death via taser and that is not seen as over the line by the DA and police department.

    And they wonder why people might not trust or feel safe around cops...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 1:54pm

      Re: If 'fresulted in death' isn't excessive, nothing is

      As I said in my first comment here, I'd guess decapitation or setting the person on fire while watching they scream and agonize *might* be considered a slightly excessive use of force. Just slightly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 2:09pm

        "Electrocution is fine, what's the problem with a little fire?"

        At this point? No, I would absolutely expect at the very least the local police union to try to justify either or both of those actions, with the DA likely piling on as well to explain how it was totally the dead person's fault for being lit on fire and/or decapitated.

        That I am not being sarcastic here just shows how messed up things have gotten. It may be cynical, but after reading stories like this is does not seem overly(if at all) unrealistic.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 2:03pm

      Curse of the header typo

      'If Resulted in death' isn't excessive, nothing is'

      How did I miss that one...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:13pm

      Re: If 'fresulted in death' isn't excessive, nothing is

      You can literally electrocute someone to death

      There's literally no other way to electrocute someone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:33pm

        Re: Re: If 'fresulted in death' isn't excessive, nothing is

        Very true. If electricity doesn't kill you it is called electric shock. If it kills you then it is electrocution.

        So really he was electrocuted after receiving multiple shocks. Course you could still argue it wasn't the electricity that killed him but massive organ failure due to trauma.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: If 'fresulted in death' isn't excessive, nothing is

          In between, Trammell suffered a black eye, a broken rib and more than two dozen cuts and bruises, according to the medical examiner's report.

          Along with the accompanying physical assault.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 3:40pm

      DAs have tremendous amounts of power.

      Since they have prosecutorial discretion on their side, they can choose to not prosecute anyone they want, including police officers who murder anyone he wants murdered.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        any moose cow word, 10 May 2018 @ 7:12am

        Re: DAs have tremendous amounts of power.

        That's an interesting point. In some jurisdictions, a cop almost certainly could setup a situation with the intent to kill a specific person and walk without so much as an indictment. And as long as he doesn't outright incriminate himself, having a bodycam would make absolutely no difference.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 10 May 2018 @ 1:20am

      Re: If 'fresulted in death' isn't excessive, nothing is

      Resulting in death might be considered an unfortunate result of a necessary spur of the moment action required to protect the officers or the public around them. Tasing someone who represented an immediate present danger, and the single tasing resulting in death could potentially be excused.

      However:

      "tased him in the shower 18 times "

      How the actual fuck is that not excessive? In fact, I'd argue that the knowledge of the way electricity and water work together combined with the fact that the guy was naked (and thus not in a position to acquire weapons) makes this outright murder.

      There is not a single logical explanation as to how that's remotely acceptable, yet here we are.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hillary Clinton, 9 May 2018 @ 1:57pm

    Three cheers for dead cops

    Good cops cringe when they hear about bad cops like these scumbags. People now cheer when cops are murdered. This is the result of the actions of bad cops. Sad but true.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:13pm

      Re: Three cheers for dead cops

      It's not just a result of the actions of the bad cops. It's the result of the inaction of all the "good cops". If cops want people to respect them, it must be all the "good cops" at the front of the line to condemn actions like these. It must be the "good cops" taking proactive action to root out these bad cops, to arrest them, to hold each other accountable.

      But we don't see that happening ever. Scratch that. I've seen it happen a couple of times, and what happens to those cops? They get fired.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 2:21pm

      Re: Three cheers for dead cops

      No, it's not just the bad cops. It's the supposedly good cops around them that don't speak out, don't act, and do nothing to prevent it from happening again.

      If that seems unfair, just remember that the officers in this case - as in countless other cases - won't be charged. It's not just the DA's office that's cleared them of wrongdoing, declaring that torturing a man to death was not excessive. It's the police force that never charged them to begin with.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:34pm

      Re: Three cheers for dead cops

      Who is cheering when someone gets murdered?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Whoever, 9 May 2018 @ 3:15pm

      Re: Three cheers for dead cops

      Good cops cringe when they hear about bad cops like these scumbags.

      I don't believe they do. If they did, these supposed "bad cops" (see note) would be disciplined and kicked out.

      Note: IMHO "bad cops" are merely typical cops. Thus the term "bad cops" is redundant: instead, it should just be "cops".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 2:12pm

    This is one of the problems rising in the clinics

    Therapists and case workers have an obligation to report under certain conditions (for instance when someone reports that they are a danger to themselves or others.) The more letters in front of your name, the more you can use your own judgement to assess the danger, but for those of us without the extra schooling our options are limited.

    In the 80s and 90s, we believed we could rely on responders to handle such cases with kid gloves. It helped that we had names and numbers of officers who were savvy about crazies, and who could be relied on to be gentle, even to know something of how to talk them down.

    These days, many treatment providers have to play lawyer in advance. You just implied that you might be a danger to yourself. If you don't specifically contradict that, I will have an obligation to report. So I'm going to ask you, are you in danger of self harm? The next step is to give them the option of woluntary commitment, though again, provided we can get them in a facility that doesn't regularly beat the crap out of their patients. Amazingly, telling them that our respective careers depend on them not killing themselves this week often serves as a motivator to not go there.

    At this point, sending responders to investigate or collect someone is a last resort. When a patient gets killed or badly injured or winds up in the news, the entire mental health community freaks out about it. Deservedly so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 9 May 2018 @ 2:20pm

    This Would Have Never Happened in Mayberry*

    Cops 'Help' Naked, Possibly-Suicidal Schizophrenic Man By Tasing Him To Death

    As every fool knows this is how highly trained professional law enforcement officers subdue mentally ill persons.

    Were our highly trained costumed heroes shouting - "stop resisting" - as they tortured the mentally ill man to death?

    * The Andy Griffith Show

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Andy_Griffith_Show

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:43pm

    More than two tases and you're playing with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 2:45pm

    Just for comparison, how the UK police handle things; they arrest them, even if they have keep things contained until their mate with shields arrive. (The link is a Google search).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rapnel (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 2:55pm

    There are no more "good cops".

    There are only good people forced underground because their police state overlords would relieve them of their duties for any actions deemed reasonable or considerate or hell even cognizant of the human condition.

    Fuck the police. Seriously. Fuck their leaders, their leaders and their leaders..

    oh wait.

    Fuck me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    keithzg (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 3:32pm

    Fire them all and start from scratch

    Police departments have proven unable to reform themselves. There really seems to be nothing that could possibly work other than firing absolutely everyone and starting again from scratch, including barring anyone who was employed in law enforcement from ever working in law enforcement again. Sure, that's a pretty drastic measure, but so is taking human life for no goddamn reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 4:14pm

      Re: Fire them all and start from scratch

      In many jurisdictions, becoming a hairstylist requires more training than becoming a police officer. There is no political will to reign in police officers. None.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 3:57pm

    "welfare check" - type police visits

    Just like police conducting a "welfare check" because of a call by a concerned friend or relative, and ending up killing the person they were supposed to be *helping*, it's a repeated problem with a large and growing body count, caused by naive samaritans who don't seem to know that all police are trained killers and many consider themselves in a war zone with civilians seen as the enemy. It's literally a roll of the dice whether a good cop or a bad cop shows up.

    Just remember that police on any kind of "welfare check" don't need a warrant to enter and search a home -- and kill the occupant if she doesn't obey orders or makes a sudden move.

    https://www.offthegridnews.com/current-events/welfare-check-police-now-can-enter-your-home-with out-warrant-judge-rules/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 4:45pm

    The crack of thunder

    I can't help but think of a final destination style scenario involving multiple lightning strikes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 5:03pm

    When your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

    Takeaway: Only call the police if you want someone dead, but remember, that someone may end up being you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 5:56pm

      "Murder by Cop"

      That would actually be an interesting take on the murder mystery, in which the murderer's method is to expose his victim(s) to contrived encounters with the police until one incident escalates to violence.

      Doubly effective if the target is a non-white male.

      Like SWATting someone until they get it right.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 5:51pm

    From the DA report:

    "To show criminal negligence, I would have to demonstrate negligence to a high degree, consisting of conduct that the officers realized created a substantial and unreasonable risk of harm."

    Assuming that analysis of the statute is correct, I might have to agree with the DA. I'm not convinced the officers realized their conduct created a risk of harm. For me, that leaves the following alternatives: The officers were too stupid to realize it, or they just didn't bother to think about their actions. In either case, they should be fired on grounds of gross incompetence.

    Cops who kill because they're incompetent, or cops who kill because they're power-tripping... I'm not sure which is worse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 9:03pm

      Because who doesn't scream in agony and puke a bunch?

      Assuming that analysis of the statute is correct, I might have to agree with the DA. I'm not convinced the officers realized their conduct created a risk of harm.

      Assuming that wasn't sarcasm, excerpt from the article:

      On the officers' body camera footage, Trammell can be heard screaming in agony.

      He spent some of his last conscious moments vomiting profusely.

      For them to fail to realize that 'screaming in agony' and 'vomiting profusely' were indicators that something was seriously wrong they would have had to all have been so monumentally stupid to the point that putting on their pants each morning would be incredible personal achievements.

      No, they knew full well what they were doing. At best they just didn't care that they were killing someone horribly, and alternatively it's quite possible they did it simply because they enjoyed it.

      Whether sociopaths with murderous indifference or psychopaths with murderous intent, if the DA cared even the slightest bit regarding the lives of those around who don't have a badge every last one of those monsters would be in court and then behind bars for being threats to those around them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2018 @ 1:53am

        Re: Because who doesn't scream in agony and puke a bunch?

        >sociopaths with murderous indifference or psychopaths with murderous intent

        You arrived at the same conclusion I did, you just said it better.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2018 @ 7:24am

        Re: Because who doesn't scream in agony and puke a bunch?

        A sociopath with murderous indifference may realize they are killing someone, but they do not realize that the person they are torturing to death is mentally incapable of responding in a way they are being ordered to.

        WW2 has plenty of studies of how some of the best killers in the war were complete sociopaths. Racked up kill counts, never got rattled. Their squad mates would be recorded as saying something was messed up with them since they would execute enemy combatants that were screaming/losing their mind but otherwise already disarmed. Eerily similar to these cases.

        Yelling at a german soldier that obviously doesn't know english (or whatever language the soldier had) to get up and do something with a gun pointed at them. Enemy soldier clearly distressed on knees, prostrate, what have you making frantic obvious pleads in their own language and then shot. Squad mates immediately going "why did you shoot him?!" "he didn't do what I said" and acted like he was checking off a task list before he reached the conclusion that the enemy combatant was not surrendering properly.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2018 @ 8:46am

    both officers and the DA should be charged, the officers with murder or at least manslaughter in the 1st and the DA should be charged with wanton dereliction of duty by not pressing charges against the 2 officers!! how the hell can anyone in their right mind think, for 1 second, that tazzing someone to death is in the remotest way 'helping them'?? and even before that, how did he sustain all those injuries?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pɹɐʍoƆ snoɯʎuou∀, 10 May 2018 @ 3:08pm

    This reminds me of Kelly Thomas, who was murdered by cops in CA. They *beat him to death* and he knew they were killing him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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