Santa Rita Inmate Dies after Guards Taze Him



The Chron reports that another intoxicated man died in custody after police used less-than-lethal weapons to subdue him. Here's the gist: Martin Harrison was popped for DUI, booked, and sent to the county jail at Santa Rita. After a few hours, Harrison allegedly flipped out, trashed his cell and flooded it by clogging up the toilet, then hid under his mattress while claiming that someone was out there trying to kill him. The guards tazed him while trying to move him to a different cell and clean up the one he trashed, and Harrison collapsed and died in the infirmary.

This is the latest in a long trend of people dying after being subjected to less-than-lethal weapons such as pepper spray and tasers. The phenomenon has been dubbed "sudden in-custody death syndrome," which is either an Orwellian euphemism or the best the English language can do so far. But the main factors are generally established: a suspect is intoxicated, usually on cocaine, he's already highly agitated and got his heart pumping like a marathoner, and the cops hit him with electricity or pepper spray, then pin him to the ground and shackle him. Not everyone dies after such an experience, of course, but an alarming number of them have. Cities such as Berkeley and San Francisco have periodically examined whether to stop cops from using pepper spray, but have declined to take such a step so far. The guards in the latest incident have been put on leave pending an examination, and Harrison's body will be tested for intoxicants.