Enlarged Heart, Methamphetamine Contributed to Taser Death

Three California police officers cleared in death of obese suspect


 
 

Darrell R. Santschi, The Press Enterprise | | Friday, June 28, 2013


The San Bernardino County district attorney's office will not bring charges against three Colton policemen who used a stun gun at least three times on a 290-pound suspect who died after the struggle.

JEMS: Study: Taser Shots to Chest Pose No Extra Cardiac Arrest Danger

In a 26-page report released Thursday, June 27, the DA's office concluded that the 2012 death of Hutalio Granados Serrano, 43, of Colton, "was the unfortunate result" of Serrano's struggle with the officers, compounded by Serrano's obesity, an enlarged heart and having been under the influence of methamphetamine.

Investigators talked to 11 witnesses whose statements did not all agree, the report said, but appeared to support statements from the three officers: Sgt. Robbie Bronsheur and officers Saul Salazar and Wade Harris.

Salazar was sent to a parking lot of a townhome complex at East Chumash Avenue and South Mohave Drive about 5 p.m. Jan. 15, 2012, in response to a report of a suspicious man described as heavyset and wearing a dark sweatshirt. Salazar spotted Serrano, who matched the description.

Salazar told an investigator that Serrano told him he was there to see his wife, but would not give his name, was sweating profusely despite the cool weather, and walked away. The report said Salazar believed Serrano was under the influence of a drug and called for backup.

Salazar was quoted as saying that Serrano did not comply with instructions to sit on the ground, instead moving around and reaching toward his waist. When Serrano continued to reach toward his waist and put one hand into a pocket, Salazar said he struck the man's forearm with a flashlight.

Harris and Bronsheur eventually arrived and joined in attempting to subdue and handcuff Serrano.

One of the witnesses told an investigator that at one point after officers had started using their Tasers, Serrano said, "Oh my God, please, oh my heart, my heart," as he held his chest.

Another witness said she saw the officers on top of Serrano and that he was neither resisting nor moving.

Serrano was struck by a Taser at least three times, with downloaded reports from the stun guns indicating that Salazar's Taser was activated four times and Harris' was activated three times. Eventually they were able to handcuff him, but he became unresponsive.

Officers performed first aid and removed the handcuffs when paramedics arrived, according to the report. Serrano was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:23 p.m. His injuries included multiple broken ribs, but the DA's report said that was attributed to the chest compressions as officers performed CPR.

"The struggle, mild heart condition, obesity and methamphetamine intoxication sadly created a perfect storm that proved deadly for Serrano," the DA's report concluded.

"Nonetheless, Salazar had a reasonable suspicion that Serrano was under the influence of a drug. Serrano's actions created a clear concern for officer safety which justified the need to handcuff his wrists. It was his resistance that necessitated the use of force."



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