Taser inquiry offers no recommendations

A fatality inquiry has failed to pinpoint excited delirium as the reason a Lacombe man died after being Tasered during a violent arrest in Red Deer.

Surya Doan hugs her brother Jason Doan in this undated famile handout photo. The sister of an Alberta man who died after being zapped by an RCMP Taser hopes a fatality inquiry will explain why an officer jolted him three times and what role the stun gun may have played in his death.

Excited delirium may not be the reason a Red Deer man died almost three weeks after being Tasered during a violent arrest, says an inquiry report made public on Wednesday.

Jason Wayne Doan, 28, lay in a coma at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre for 20 days after suffering heart failure while fighting with police and one other man on the lawn outside an Oriole Park home on Aug. 10, 2006. He died on Aug. 30 without regaining consciousness.

The report from a fatality inquiry held before Judge Monica Bast in Red Deer provincial court last December states that no recommendation can be made because “Doan’s manner of death cannot conclusively be attributed to excited delirium.”

The report was disappointing in some aspects, but its conclusion is a relief for the family in other ways, says Doan’s sister Surya Doan, with whom Doan had been living at the time of his death.

Until the report was released, the investigation into his death had painted Doan as a drug user and an alcoholic, neither of which were true, Surya Doan said on Wednesday.

“We really do like the fact that they decided to take back the excited delirium term, which always upset our family. We pushed for that for a long time,” she said.

“Jason was someone who worked towards a future and he did not take drugs. He was not an alcoholic, you know, like they made him out to be, and so that excited delirium term does not work, especially in this case, if ever at all.”

Doan had turned his life around in the three months before his arrest and had been working on his welding ticket, she said.

“He was so not what they painted him out to be. It’s been nice to see that there’s some positive awareness from that report.”

Excited delirium is described in the report as a condition in which a person exhibits irrational thought processes and an impaired sense of reality. Dr. Christine Hall, in her testimony before the inquiry, said it is not a recognized medical diagnosis.

It is disappointing that the report was not more forthcoming with its findings, said Surya Doan. Taser cases seem to be the only cases where people use the term excited delirium, she said.

“The similarities sitting here, case to case, obviously we need to start to act on this, I guess, seeing how you’re working with a system that’s pretty well held their head in the sand on this for a long time,” she said.

“I’m hopeful for the future, and I believe that these kinds of things will resolve more and more through every case.”

The inquiry heard that Doan was seen acting strangely on the day he was arrested and that, by 12:19 p.m., RCMP had received seven 911 calls reporting damage to vehicles. Doan fought back violently when officers tried to arrest him and showed no visible effects when they tasered him.

Doan gave up his struggles and pleaded for help a few seconds after being tasered for a third time. Shortly after handcuffing Doan, one of the officers noticed that he was turning pale.

One officer called for an ambulance while another performed chest compressions and respirations.

Fire-medics responding to the call reported that Doan was turning blue and his heart had stopped beating. They were able to restore a heartbeat but Doan did not regain consciousness.

The medical examiner, Dr. Sam Andrews, testified that Doan suffered a cardiac condition that was unusual for a person his age and that it would not be apparent or visible to a casual observer. But Andrews could find no link between the Taser deployments and the cardiac arrest or the subsequent kidney condition Doan developed while he was in hospital.

“The best that can be said is that two of the identified underlying medical diagnoses, psychiatric illness or alcohol withdrawal (delirium tremens), may have been responsible for the manifestations exhibited by Doan,” says the report.

Further diagnosis was impossible because Doan never regained consciousness, it says.

Doan’s family launched a $1.7-million lawsuit last August, naming the RCMP, medical staff and makers of the Taser.

Surya Doan said she would not comment on the status of the lawsuit or how it has been affected by the results of the inquiry report.

“The only thing I can say on that is, you’ll have to stay tuned.”

Alberta Justice has posted the report on its website, www.justice.gov.ab.ca/fatality/fatality_reports.aspx

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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