Preliminary report does not say whether deputy's Taser use helped kill Oak Harbor man

FREMONT An Oak Harbor man, zapped with a Taser while in police custody, died of a combination of dru
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

 

FREMONT

An Oak Harbor man, zapped with a Taser while in police custody, died of a combination of drugs and his actions resulting from that drug use, according to a preliminary autopsy report.

The report does not indicate whether the Taser weapon played a role in his death.

Burdine, 37, died Aug. 11 after he fought with police and was then shocked three times by a Sandusky County Sheriff deputy with a Taser.

The full autopsy report has yet to be delivered to the Sandusky County Coroner's office -- more than 11 weeks after the incident. Sandusky County Coroner John Wukie previously said the full report would be ready mid-September.

He did not return calls Thursday.

A spokeswoman with the Lucas County Coroner's Office, which handled the autopsy, said the full report was completed Tuesday, but will not be released to the media.

"The case is under the jurisdiction of the Sandusky County Coroner," said Dr. Cynthia Beisser, who performed the autopsy. "I have no authorization to give out information. That's not my county's case."

Beisser said the report is on her secretary's desk, waiting to be mailed out to the Sandusky County Coroner's office.

Beisser said it is not unusual for an autopsy to take 11 weeks.

She said the report took so long because of the toxicology tests and the examination of certain tissues under a microscope.

According to the preliminary report, Burdine died from a combination of alcohol and methamphetamines.

"Both of those drugs can be toxic to the body in and of themselves," Beisser said. "If they're combined, they exacerbate one another."

The report indicates he also died from "a drug-induced excited delirium."

"It just means he was very stimulated and acting irrationally, according to reports," Beisser said.

According to the toxicology report, Burdine had traces of amphetamines, marijuana and other drugs in his urine and blood. The other drugs are typically mixed in with methamphetamines, Beisser said.

Burdine also had bruising on his neck and head and fluid in his lungs that is a typical finding in cases of drug overdose, Beisser said.

Craig Burdine's sister, Laurie Burdine, of Oak Harbor, said she was not altogether certain that the coroner's findings were credible.

"What is excited delirium? Does that mean you're so excited that you die?" she said. "Many authorities believe that this is a made up word to cover up police abuse -- that's what we found on the Internet."

Sandusky County Sheriff David Gangwer said days after Burdine's death that his officers handled the situation properly.

"People have confidence in this office to do a thorough job, and I think that's what we did," Gangwer said. "If we tried to stretch the truth, I wouldn't have my job long."

An internal investigation into Burdine's death cannot be completed by the sheriff's office until the autopsy report is made available.

Gangwer said if the Taser caused Burdine's death, he would hand the investigation over to an independent agency.

"If I had any reason to believe those Tasers caused death, I wouldn't use them," Gangwer said.

Burdine was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, among other charges, after an altercation in Fremont.

The incident began when Burdine "launched onto" a 32-year-old Fremont man during a party at a home on Sycamore Street in Fremont, with both men landing in a fire pit, according to a police report. Burdine then ran "into a few fences, damaged some vehicles and houses," police said.