McGlothen death while in SPD custody natural but possibly preventable, coroner says

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A man who died in Shreveport Police custody in early April died of natural causes but his death could possibly have been prevented, the Caddo Parish Coroner’s office has determined.

Tommie Dale McGlothen Jr., 44, died early April 6, 2020 after he was taken into custody by Shreveport police.

According to a statement released early Tuesday morning, Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma determined that McGlothen Jr. died from excited delirium. The statement cites the American Medical Association definition of excited delirium as the sudden death of individuals “who are combative and in a highly agitated state” and who have exhibited “agitation, excitability, paranoia, aggression and apparent immunity to pain, often associated with stimulant use and certain psychiatric disorders.”

Dr. Thoma’s decision was based on autopsy and toxicology results, McGlothen’s medical history and review of police and witness statements and videos.

“Although Mr. McGlothen’s death has been ruled from natural causes, excited delirium, it is my opinion that this is still a potentially preventable death,” Dr. Thoma said in the statement. “When confronted with Mr. McGlothen, it should have been obvious that he needed medical care. He was left in the back of the patrol vehicle for 48 minutes before he was found unresponsive and not breathing. He was predominantly unsupervised during this entire period. After a violent confrontation with psychotic behavior, and being tased several times, a more thorough evaluation by either the fire department or preferably an emergency department would have been indicated. It is my opinion that if Mr. McGlothen had survived, he would have been transported to a medical facility for treatment rather than jail. Why there was a delay in achieving this is at issue.”

The statement says police officers used Tasers, mace and nightsticks to control McGlothen, who was agitated and combative and had fought with a homeowner in the 3700 block of Eileen Lane late April 5. Police arrived after McGlothen blocked a driveway, followed the homeowner inside his house, mumbling incoherently and exhibiting signs of paranoia and emotional disturbance before the altercation with the homeowner, according to police.

RELATED: 4 SPD officers on leave after video surfaces showing violent encounter before McGlothen death

“If the officers violated any of our policies, they will be disciplined accordingly,” Raymond said.

After his arrest, McGlothen was placed in the back of a police cruiser and later was observed to be non-responsive. Police attempted CPR but attempts at the scene and at the hospital to revive McGlothen were not successful. He was pronounced dead just after 2:30 a.m. at Willis-Knighton Medical Center on Greenwood Road.

“Although autopsy showed that Mr. McGlothen suffered multiple blunt force injuries from both his confrontation with police and the citizens earlier in the day and that evening, no injuries were life-threatening or could be considered serious,” Dr. Thoma said. “Mr. McGlothen had underlying heart disease and clearly was suffering from excited delirium. The combination of these factors caused his death.”

Excited delirium is an emergent medical condition that is usually survivable with appropriate medical care, Dr. Thoma said. “Early treatment increases chances of survival.”

According to the AMA, triggering factors for Excited Delirium Syndrome, or ExDS, “include sudden and intense activation of the sympathetic nervous system, with hyperthermia, and/or acidosis, which could trigger life-threatening arrhythmias in susceptible individuals.”

ExDS was only officially recognized as a medical condition by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2009. However, descriptions of similar cases date back 150 years, and the AMA has traced the syndrome back to what once was termed “Bell’s Mania.”

The coroner’s office points to the Lexipol website for more information on Excited Delirium Syndrome. Lexipol is a public safety risk management company that consults on police training and policy.

The officers involved in the arrest remained on active duty until Monday afternoon when video surfaced on Monday afternoon purporting to show the violent encounter. Police Chief Ben Raymond issued a statement shortly after the video aired on a local television station, saying the officers had been placed on administrative leave pending investigation.

Raymond said the decision to place the officers on leave was made, “because their continued service during the investigation was beginning to have an effect on the efficient operation of the police department.”

The officers’ names have not been released.

Family members and community activists have been demanding answers and accountability from the city and from the police department in the deaths of the two men.

SPD Chief: No files missing in 2 cases under DA’s office review involving deaths in police custody

The Caddo District Attorney’s office is reviewing the case after receiving the files from SPD on May 29, and the SPD Chief Ben Raymond says Louisiana State Police have also been asked to review the case.

RELATED: DA invites public input regarding two suspects who allegedly died in SPD custody

SPD and the DA’s office have otherwise declined to comment on either case due to the ongoing investigation.

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