A 44-year-old man who died after Las Vegas police shocked him with a Taser "several" times in December had cocaine and alcohol in his system, the Clark County coroner’s office said Wednesday.
Las Vegan Anthony Jones died from cocaine and ethanol intoxication, the coroner’s office said. But other factors contributed to his death, including "police restraining procedures" and an enlarged heart from obesity and mild hypertension, the coroner found.
Assistant Coroner John Fudenberg said that although science has not determined whether Taser guns kill, the use of the less-lethal weapon could have been a factor in Jones’ death.
"It’s safe to say that it could have possibly contributed to his death," Fudenberg said.
The coroner ruled Jones’ death a homicide, meaning only that Jones died as the result of actions of others.
ROUTINE TRAFFIC STOP
Jones died in the early morning hours of Dec. 11. His confrontation with police began with a routine traffic stop less than a mile from his home and ended with a struggle with officers who used a Taser to subdue him.
The incident began when Jones’ 1993 Lexus was stopped at about 1 a.m. in the 1000 block of West Lake Mead Boulevard, near Martin Luther King Boulevard. Police have not said what prompted the stop.
Police said Jones ran north across Lake Mead and jumped a wall into the backyard of an abandoned house in the 1000 block of Hart Avenue, about two-tenths of a mile from his car. When police caught up to him, he aggressively resisted them, and officers used a Taser "several times," according to police. The department has not said how many times Jones was shocked.
Jones was pronounced dead at Valley Hospital Medical Center.
The officers involved were Mark Hatten, who has been with the agency since January 2007, and Timothy English, who was hired in June 2008.
Hatten and English were placed on routine paid administrative leave after their encounter with Jones, but police spokesman Jacinto Rivera said they are back at work in positions in which they do not have "citizen contact." Their return to regular duty depends on the outcome of a coroner’s inquest that has yet to be scheduled, he said.
Jones spent most of his adult life in prison, starting with a sexual assault conviction in 1982 when he was 16. He had several other offenses since then, prison records indicate.
On Aug. 25, Henderson resident Eduardo Hernandez-Lopez, 21, died after he was shot with a Taser by the Nevada Highway Patrol.
According to the Nevada Department of Public Safety, troopers were alerted to an accident on U.S. Highway 95 involving an individual fighting others there.
When officers arrived, they had an altercation with Hernandez-Lopez, whom they described as an "irate individual." During the altercation the man was shot with a Taser, and troopers later noticed he was not breathing. The coroner’s office listed his death as "cardiopulmonary arrest during varied restraining procedures" and a homicide. The inquest is pending.
A Taser delivers 50,000 volts of electricity, which incapacitates the body.
A 2008 study by Amnesty International concluded that Las Vegas led U.S. cities in deaths involving law enforcement use of Tasers. The study found that between June 2001 and August 2008, seven people died after Tasers were used on them.
Six of the deaths involved Las Vegas officers, who began using Tasers in 2004.
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638.