Man Dies After Taser Deployed in Va.

Monday, Aug 8, 2011  |  Updated 9:48 AM EDT
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Prince William County police are investigating a man's death after officers used a Taser to subdue him.

NBC Washington - Aaron Gilchrist

Prince William County police are investigating a man's death after officers used a Taser to subdue him.

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Police in Prince William County are investigating a man's death after authorities used a Taser to subdue him.  The deceased's niece told News4 that the man had a heart condition.

Law enforcement arrived at the 11000 block of Hiram Court in Manassas on Saturday, August 6 to assist paramedics with a man they were attempting to provide with medical treatment.  The man, Debro Lamonte Wilkerson, age 29, was reportedly acting in a combative manner.

According to a statement from Prince William County Police, officers arrived around 3:30 p.m., they attempted to place the man into custody.  Officers made the decision to use a Taser. 

Wilkerson was subsequently transported to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the release said.

Police said they are currently conducting a criminal and internal investigation into the incident.  An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of Wilkerson's death.

Wilkerson's niece, Shardae Wilkerson, told News4 that she called 911 that day after her uncle told her he was having a heart attack.  She said he suffered from asthma and a heart murmur.

Shardae Wilkerson said that when paramedics arrived, they administered treatment to her uncle inside their ambulance, but he became agitated and tried to leave.  At some point medics called for police assistance.  Witnesses said that eventually, between ten and twenty police, paramedics, and firefighters were there at the scene.

Shardae Wilkerson said that her uncle ran out of the ambulance and across a courtyard towards her.  Officers who were on the scene then used used their Taser weapons on Wilkerson, according to his niece and several witnesses.

A number of residents who watched the incident said that Wilkerson was Tasered at least three times.  Wilkerson's niece said that after her uncle was Tasered, police surrounded him and brought him to the ground, where his feet and hands were secured behind his back.  Numerous witnesses told News4 that they watch paramedics giving Wilkerson some kind of injection into his arm.

After he was cuffed and injected, Wilkerson was loaded onto a gurney and then wheeled back into the ambulance, his niece said.  The paramedics and police then left.

Wilkerson's brother-in-law, who was also on the scene, told News4 that about an hour later, officers returned to the scene to conduct an investigation.  He said he learned from them that his brother-in-law had died.

He claimed that the police used excessive force.  "Nobody was shot, nobody was beat up.  They treated it like we got a murderer or bank robber here," the brother-in-law told News4.  "But it was really uncalled for, it was too much for just one man."

Prince William County police released an updated statement late Sunday night.  Authorities said Wilkerson screamed and acted aggressively towards paramedics while receiving treatment.  Police said Wilkerson lunged at an officer inside the ambulance, at which point the officer used a Taser, and then placed a handcuff on one hand.

Authorities said that Wilkerson was able to break free and run away from the ambulance, and then assaulted a female relative.  Police said Wilkerson let the relative go after they threatened him with pepper spray, and they cuffed him.  According to police, Wilkerson told officers that he had been using heroin and PCP.

Police in the revised statement said that after returning to the ambulance, Wilkerson became aggressive and jumped out of the ambulance again.  They said that they used Taser weapons on him again, and that officers restrained him on the ground while he resisted arrest.

From the updated police account:

"While the police restrained him paramedics applied medical treatment. He continued to struggle for a period of time. Eventually he became passive.  His vital signs were monitored as police and EMS were able to carry Wilkerson to the ambulance on a stretcher.  His vital signs deteriorated and paramedics could no longer find a pulse.  They began resuscitation efforts and emergency personnel transported him to the hospital.  He was later pronounced dead at the hospital."

The autopsy is scheduled for Monday, August 8.

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