Fort Worth Taser Death Ruled Homicide

A mentally ill man's death after he was shocked twice by a police Taser was a homicide, a medical examiner's office ruled Thursday.

The family of Michael Patrick Jacobs Jr., 24, called for help April 18 saying he was causing problems, and Fort Worth police have said officers used the Taser after he became combative. Jacobs had difficulty breathing after he was handcuffed, and he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Jacobs was stunned with the Taser twice -- the first time for 49 seconds and the second time for 5 seconds, with a 1-second interval between the shocks, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office report issued Thursday.

Neither paramedics at the scene nor emergency room personnel could revive him, according to the report. He was pronounced dead about noon that day -- an hour after police used the Taser, the report said.

An autopsy showed no traces of alcohol or drugs, electrolyte imbalances, or signs of heart or lung disease, all of which can be contributing factors in a death.

The report said Jacobs' primary cause of death was "sudden death during neuromuscular incapacitation due to application of a conducted energy device," but did not explain why the death was ruled a homicide. Medical examiner's office officials declined to comment, citing pending grand jury hearings.

Police Chief Jeff Halstead on Thursday said the medical examiner's report would help his department finish its investigation into Jacobs' death, but he declined to comment on it, saying he would present it to the district attorney.

In 2001 Fort Worth police began using Tasers, a device that temporarily immobilizes a person with a 50,000-volt shock, over-stimulating the nervous system and causing muscles to lock up. Since then, Fort Worth officers have used them 1,360 times and four people have died. Jacobs' death is the first of those deaths to be ruled a homicide, he said.

"I want to express our condolences to the family of Michael Jacobs," Halstead said at a news conference. "Our thoughts are with them during this difficult time."

Jacobs' family remains upset over losing their son, who had been off his medication for bipolar disorder, said the Rev. Kyev Tatum, a family spokesman. Relatives called the police that day because they wanted him taken to the hospital, but officers "treated him like a common criminal" instead of showing compassion, Tatum said.

"We are relieved that the ME's findings line up with our facts, but we still believe that Mr. Jacobs did not have to die, and did not have to die the way he did, in front of his parents in his front yard crying out for help," said Tatum, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Fort Worth chapter.

Tatum has called for a federal investigation after the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that police initially turned paramedics away. Officers later called them back but had not started cardiopulmonary resuscitation, said Matt Zavadsky, associate director for ambulance service provider MedStar.

Also, a paramedic reported that a defibrillator used on Jacobs shortly after he was shocked with the Taser apparently did not work, according to documents obtained by the newspaper. Zavadsky said the machine was operational, but Jacobs' heart had stopped and cell phone and radio transmissions at the scene could have interfered and caused the monitor to give no readings.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us