Coroner's jury rules cause of death of man shot by Taser 'undetermined' — (The State Journal-Register)

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The State Journal-Register (IL)

By BRUCE RUSHTON

Posted Mar. 24, 2010

A pathologist called the January death of Patrick Burns a “textbook case” of excited delirium brought on by cocaine, but a coroner’s jury on Wednesday found the cause of Burns’ death to be “undetermined.”

Jurors returned the verdict after being told that Sangamon County sheriff’s deputies used Tasers 21 times while subduing Burns, who had broken into a Grandview home.

Burns, 50, had a history of drug use and bipolar disorder.  Cocaine, marijuana, Wellbutrin and Prozac were in his system when he was brought, hog-tied, to Memorial Medical Center on Jan. 23. He died five days later.

John Yard, special agent with the Illinois State Police, said four deputies deployed Tasers 21 times as they struggled with Burns in a muddy ditch, but it is impossible to know how many times he was actually shocked. The wires that carry charges from stun guns to targets could have become detached as Burns flailed and fought, Yard said.

Bent handcuffs

Burns, an accountant for the state, fought so hard that he bent handcuffs, Yard testified, and sutures were needed to close cuff wounds on his ankles.

Burns had forced his way into a house, broken out windows, apparently with his hands, and beaten a woman inside, but he was outside and calm when deputies arrived.

One deputy went inside to check on the woman while three colleagues dealt with Burns. However, Burns’ demeanor suddenly changed when a deputy prepared to take photographs of his injuries, Yard said.

“He hops up and starts striking an officer in the abdomen,” Yard said. “He was shouting at the officers: ‘The rapture is coming. Drugs are good. Drugs are bad.’”

The deputies and Burns, clad in underwear and a long-sleeved t-shirt, were soon covered in mud and struggling, Yard said.

Paramedics who initially reported that deputies shocked Burns after he was in cuffs later said they believed the deputies were still trying to bring him under control when they saw the Tasers deployed, Yard testified.

The deputies eventually realized the shocks weren’t having any effect, the agent said.

‘It’s not working’

“One of the officers said ‘It’s not working, we need to do something else,’” Yard said.

But deputies had no good options, Yard said.

“In this case, I’m not sure what else they could have done short of striking him with batons and flashlights,” Yard said.

Before his run-in with deputies, Burns had beaten his fiancée and accused her of trying to poison him, Yard testified.

When Burns first left his home, less than a block from the house where he encountered deputies, his fiancée went outside to try to convince him to return. However, Yard said, she went back inside and locked the door when he hit her again.