Pubdate: Tue, 27 Nov 2007
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte, The Edmonton Journal
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Man Who Overdosed on Cocaine Died in Police Custody

EDMONTON - Police and paramedics need to be better educated to deal
with aggressive, crazed people, says a provincial judge who has
reviewed the case of a man who died in police custody.

Judge Monica Rae Bast said emergency personnel need to better
recognize when people are in a state of excited delirium, a medical
condition that can be caused by drug overdoses and mental-health issues.

The condition has been implicated in recent Taser-involved

Bast said officials should write a list of signs to recognize and
write procedures for members to follow.

In March 2006, two RCMP officers responded to a hotel restaurant in
Rocky Mountain House after guests reported that a man was running in
the street in his underwear yelling, "They're out to get me."

The officers found Ted James Meiorin, 40, crouched on the floor amid
smashed plates, broken glasses and cutlery.

He appeared agitated and didn't respond when officers tried to speak
with him.

When one officer took a fork out of Meiron's hand, the man

The two officers wrestled him to the ground, held him face-down on the
floor and fastened his hands behind his back using three sets of
handcuffs. Minutes later, they noticed Meiorin wasn't breathing. He
died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Toxicology tests found cocaine levels of 1.4 to 1.6 milligrams per
litre in his body. A concentration above 1.0 is life-threatening.

Bast ruled a cocaine overdose pushed Meiorin into a state of excited
delirium. In that highly agitated state, it's typical for a person to
suddenly collapse when physically restrained.

Dr. Catherine Hall, who testified at the hearing, has been studying
excited delirium and deaths in police custody since 2001. She said
education is needed, but "there is no recipe book" for emergency
personnel to follow.

In the 1970s, when researchers started to publish on excited delirium
leading to death, they pointed to police batons and blunt-force trauma
and said that led to the sudden collapse.

Then in the 1980s, researchers thought the way police surrounded a
person caused suffocatation. In the 1990s, they began to blame pepper

Today, the focus is on police Tasers, Hall said.

In Meiorin's case, physical trauma was minimal, but he was restrained
before he died.

"Restraint and containment obviously does something. The question is
what," she said.

That needs more study, she said, though one problem is, "you can never
get these people to (hospital) care without restraining them, ever."

More education won't help in every case, she said. But if paramedics
are there when the person is restrained, they may be able to calm him
or her down with sedatives.

Everyone needs to recognize, "a naked, crazy man isn't a funny thing,
it's a scary thing," Hall said. "On top of this being a police
emergency, it's a medical emergency as well." 
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