Baltimore prosecutors have decided not to press charges against a police officer who used a taser to restrain a patient at Good Samaritan hospital, despite the patient later suffering a fatal seizure.
19-year old George Von King Jr.
The Baltimore City State Attorney’s office announced on Oct. 28 that an extensive investigation, which included interviews of witnesses, a review of protocols regarding taser use and an autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, determined that 19-year old George Von King Jr. died of natural causes.
King was taken to Good Samaritan hospital by a social services worker on May 6 after suffering from multiple seizures. After one day in the hospital, he suffered another seizure and was transferred to the ICU. King was not in favor of being moved.
Prosecutors said in a statement that on May 7, “around 4:30 p.m., Mr. King became aggressive, combative, disoriented, possibly because of the medication he had been given, resulting in a switch to different medication.”
The statement also says that he removed the IV from his arm and tried to strike a pregnant nurse when she attempted to reinsert the IV back in. That prompted security guards to enter into the room to try and restrain the teen. The five guards could not handle King who was kicking, screaming and pushing the other guards out the way.
This forced the nurses to call the police at 5:22 p.m. Approximately 15 minutes later, police officers James Wynne and Thomas Hodas arrived at the ICU. They tried to calm down King and warned him if he didn’t cooperate they would use a taser. King told the officers to go ahead and use the taser. Hodas used his taser twice, shooting “prongs” from the device which allowed the hospital staff and the officers to place King back on the bed, where they attempted to place soft restraints on his arms and legs.
However, King continued to resist, and Hodas used his taser a third time, but applied it directly against King’s skin to cause a pain stimulus, but did not force King to become cooperative. Hodas used his taser three more times in 10 minutes, which finally calmed the patient down.
During the tussle, Wynne struck King when the patient attempted to bite a nurse.
“In response, Officer Wynne struck Mr. King, and one witness reports that Officer Wynne struck Mr. King in a further effort to subdue him,” prosecutors said in a statement.
King was finally restrained sometime between 6:30 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. Shortly after King was restrained, he went into cardiac arrest, which caused a loss of oxygen from the brain. Last-minute efforts to resuscitate King were unsuccessful, and he was later pronounced brain dead. King remained on life support until May 12.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s autopsy determined that King died from “acute epidural abscess and meningitis with complications,” according to the statement released by prosecutors. Specifically, the exam showed a swollen area around the spinal cord and an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain, which forced the deteriorating of cells and as a result likely caused the cardiac arrest, according to the statement.
“The autopsy revealed no credible evidence that either the restraint of the decedent by medical personnel or law enforcement, the use of the Taser, or the administration of any of the sedating medications caused or contributed to Mr. King’s death,” prosecutors said.
However, Granville Templeton, an attorney representing King’s family, said the police went too far with the force they applied, and that excess was somehow linked to King’s cardiac arrest.
“Once you see that you have choked someone, a 19-year-old and you have punched someone and tased him five times, and they go into cardiac arrest and their heart stops right after, it’s clear the officers did contribute to that,” he told Baltimore NBC affiliate WBAL.
King had been accepted to Baltimore City Community College and had plans of studying art and graphic design.