REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Where's report on death of man who was hit with Taser?

Sandusky County Coroner John Wukie and Sheriff David Gangwer already lost the opportunity to provide a clear and concise explanation
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

Sandusky County Coroner John Wukie and Sheriff David Gangwer already lost the opportunity to provide a clear and concise explanation as to what killed 37-year-old Craig Burdine.

Burdine was arrested Aug. 11 after he was identified as a suspect involved in a fight with another man. Fremont police said Burdine was combative during the arrest before they transferred custody to the Sandusky County jail. Deputies said he continued fighting with officers, prompting a deputy to electro-shock him three times with a Taser weapon. Burdine fell to the floor and stopped breathing after being electro-shocked, and he was pronounced dead a short time later at Fremont Memorial Hospital.

Nearly three months later, Wukie has not released an autopsy report. The Lucas County deputy coroner who conducted the autopsy and toxicology tests said everything has been completed for the autopsy report except an approval from Wukie to release it.

Withholding the information from the public is inappropriate. Good public service requires efficient and timely delivery of services. Wukie has failed to do that here and that failure fuels suspicion that mistakes could have been made in how Burdine was handled by deputies in the moments prior to his death. It throws suspicion onto deputies where suspicion might not be warranted simply because the coroner has failed to provide explanations.

Sandusky County Sheriff David Gangwer lost credibility as an unbiased investigator into the death at his jail when he said days after the incident that he was "sure it wasn't the Taser that killed (Burdine)." How can the sheriff know that before an investigation is conducted? Gangwer tainted the probe before it began by predicting the conclusion his investigators would reach: "I'm quite confident everything we did was OK," he said.

An independent probe by an outside law enforcement agency would have been the appropriate choice to assure credibility of the findings.

Wukie and Gangwer together created more problems than they resolved by being slow to report and review the circumstances surrounding Burdine's death. They have done a disservice to Burdine's family and to the public, which must have trust in the officials it grants power.