Pubdate: Tue, 30 Aug 2005
Source: Fort Pierce Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Gabriel Margasak


STUART -- Cocaine toxicity and not a Taser caused the death of man who fled 
sheriff's deputies last week, the chief Treasure Coast medical examiner 
said Monday.

A history of drug use, the wild behavior that caused deputies to chase him 
and a positive cocaine test led Dr. Roger Mittleman to find Port Salerno 
resident Brian Lichtenstein, 31, died from the drug use, the examiner said.

Martin County sheriff's deputies said Lichtenstein ran naked into the woods 
when they arrived at the Riverland Mobile Home Park on Kanner Highway about 
11:50 p.m. Friday, after scared residents reported the man was lying in 
their yard.

Sgt. Shane King fired his Taser at the man when he refused to come out of 
the woods and became aggressive, according to officials and sheriff's reports.

Lichtenstein, who was finally wrestled into custody by deputies, died about 
5:46 a.m. Saturday at the hospital.

Typical Of Drug Psychosis

"No, the Taser did not in any way contribute to the death," Mittleman said. 
"The finding was so typical of cocaine psychosis."

The examiner said Lichtenstein had multiple organ failure because of 
low-blood pressure attributed to the cocaine.

The man's wife said she and her husband had been smoking crack cocaine for 
the previous three days, deputies reported.

Mittleman said he also found numerous bruises and scratches consistent with 
a man running through the woods and into other objects in a drug- induced 
frenzy. He said he found nothing to raise any other suspicions. No Link To 

Sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Jenell Atlas said Monday the agency would 
continue its use of Tasers.

"The sheriff (Robert Crowder) has said, if and when someone proves to him 
Tasers are linked to deaths ... then he'll re-evaluate the use of Tasers," 
Atlas said. "No one has proven that to him yet."

She said King, the sergeant who fired the Taser, did "everything right." An 
internal inquiry will still be completed as a standard procedure for an 
"in-custody" death.

Examiner: Taser Appropriate

Mittleman, who has seen the results of numerous cocaine binges, said he, 
too, believed in the use of the weapon in general.

"To me, the Taser is appropriate to this type of situation because you're 
preventing him from hurting himself," he said.
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