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New Times Broward-Palm Beach
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Vincent Del’Ostia, a tattooed, five-foot-nine, 160-pound 31-year-old with a history of drug abuse and psychological problems, paced outside the office door of the Entrada Motel on Federal Highway in Hollywood. High on cocaine, he wasn’t there to rent a room. He wrapped his hand around the doorknob and banged on the windows. The behavior worried employees. “He was trying to speak, but there was nothing coming out,” recalled Joan Perez, a 47-year-old maid.
Del’Ostia had damaged his throat in a motorcycle accident at age 16. Talking could sometimes be difficult for him, especially when he was having a psychotic episode that his Prozac couldn’t prevent. “He was not mad. He was acting weird,” said Veronica Vitieollo, a 41-year-old who observed the incident. “He was grinding his teeth. He was making movements. You would be afraid because of the way he was acting.”
It was January 27, 2002. Hollywood police arrived at 2:45 p.m. Officers Pete Salvo and Jeffrey Murray confronted Del’Ostia. According to Salvo, the crazed man was half-dressed, perspiring heavily, and grunting.
Salvo – a fast-talking 43-year-old with a compact, well-built frame and a thin beard that stretches down his cheeks close to the jaw line — told Del’Ostia to lie on the ground. No response. He asked if he needed medical assistance. No response. “Can you speak?” Salvo queried.
No response again. Salvo then saw the man’s pupils: narrowed to small pinpoints. His breathing was short and rapid.
“If you understand me, nod your head,” Salvo said in his deep, confident voice.
Del’Ostia stared at Salvo, then stretched his arm back, flexing, ready to strike. Murray approached, and Del’Ostia kicked at him. In response, Murray pulled out his Taser gun and fired. It proved ineffective.
A Taser launches two wires at a target. Those wires then attach and transmit an electrical current. Del’Ostia somehow knocked off one of the wires, neutralizing the effect of the nonlethal device. He became erratic. He flailed his arms and kicked his feet.
Salvo, Murray, and two other officers who arrived then jumped on Del’Ostia, pinning him facedown. Murray handcuffed and shackled him. Del’Ostia struggled.
Although one observer later told Internal Affairs (IA) investigators that Del’Ostia was “hog-tied” — which would have violated official procedure — police legal adviser Joel Cantor denies that allegation. The technique is prohibited because it restricts breathing.
Once Del’Ostia was subdued, Salvo sauntered toward Federal Highway to direct traffic away from the scene. Paramedics soon arrived and inspected the captive. They first noticed his skin tone; it was off.
Minutes later, Salvo went over to inspect the body. He summed up his findings in the police report, which was chillingly professional: “While walking back toward the scene, this officer heard the rescue lieutenant advise the subject was not breathing.”
Del’Ostia was dead. He wasn’t the only one to die after tangling with Salvo… (end of commentary about Del Ostia)
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Del’ Ostia, who friends say was mentally ill and taking the prescription drugs Prozac and Ativan, walked into the lobby of the Entrada Resort Motel and acted erratically, flailing his arms and trying to break the lobby’s windows.
In the 911 call, a motel worker at the front desk urged police to get to the Entrada immediately. ”We have a man on drugs, crazy,” the worker said. “He is breaking down our door.” When police arrived, Rode said, they ordered the man to the ground and he refused to comply. ”He made moaning and groaning noises and never spoke English,” he said. “It sounded and looked like he was under the influence of PCP.” Officers attempted to subdue him with a TASER, but it was ineffective and he pulled the probes out of his chest. Several officers then wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him. Subsequent to the struggle, he had trouble breathing, and subsequently died.
A Broward County medical examiner said a police TASER gun was not responsible for a Hollywood man’s death. The examiner said 31-year-old Vincent Del Ostia died from a cocaine overdose.