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Autopsy: Health problems contributed to Raleigh man's Taser-related death

Posted September 10, 2013
Updated September 11, 2013

— A Raleigh man who died in April after police used a Taser device on him multiple times while trying to subdue him likely died of an irregular heartbeat, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Thomas Sadler, 45, collapsed and was later pronounced dead in the early hours of April 10 after police responded to reports that he was cursing at the top of his lungs and running naked through a church parking lot on Mial Street.

The autopsy report found that thickening muscles in the his heart, plaque build-up in his arteries and the use of diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benadryl, contributed to Sadler's death.

"It is our opinion that the cause of death is a probable fatal cardiac arrhythmia due to conducted energy device use," the autopsy report stated. "It is unlikely that a cardiac arrhythmia would have resulted from CED use without the presence of underlying cardiac hypertrophy, atherosclerotic coronary artery disease and/or paradoxical excitation from diphenhydramine use. Therefore, these factors are contributory to death."

According to an investigative report released by the medical examiner, Sadler was acting normal on the evening of April 9 and had been playing board games with his girlfriend's 14-year-old son.

Around 3 a.m., however, the report said, he entered the boy's room, "dragged him out of bed and punched him" before running outside without any clothes.

Neighbors called police.

A preliminary internal police investigation found that Sadler initially complied with the responding officer's instructions to sit down but that his demeanor "suddenly changed" when another officer arrived and Sadler charged toward him with his fists clenched in front of his face.

Sadler was on the ground when he "suddenly stopped thrashing and grew quiet," according to the internal police report.


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  • chivegas Sep 12, 2013

    New mandate: Officers must complete physical exam including EKG before tasing anyone.

    "Don't tase me bro!"

  • Sherlock Sep 12, 2013

    To all those that question the use of the Tazer, why do you not attend a citizens police academy and learn what your law enforcement must go thru. I attend and it opened another world I did not understand. These officers were right it what the did it is a lose to the family, and I would say to the family why did you not stop him?

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Sep 12, 2013

    Too many people have died from taser use and the cops still defend their use on mental patients pregnant women and other situations where time and patience is the answer.


    If you're suggesting in this, or any other situation, the cops should "give it time, let him calm down", you should stop right there. They supposed to be patient while he goes back in the house and stabs the 14 year old? Chill out while he steps out in traffic naked causing a wreck involving innocent passers by? Hang tight while he does whatever HE wants while he's in whatever rage he's in until HE decides it's time to stop breaking the law? That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a while. He may have been mentally ill, jacked up, drunk, whatever. No one arriving there can assess his internal condition. No crystal balls. He got tasered while resisiting officers, he died. If I was naked, punching kids and it happened to me I wouldn't have expected any less

  • sinenomine Sep 12, 2013

    Tasers have undoubtedly saved lives, both of people being arrested and of officers.

    That said, there have also been many instances of taser-happy officers deploying the weapons under questionable circumstances.

    I think the answer is more intensive training in the use of tasers. They CAN be lethal. Any one of us could potentially have a health condition, known or not, which might make us susceptible to sudden death in the event a taser were used on us. Police in general should be very circumspect about using them, though when used correctly and in appropriate circumstances they can be very valuable law enforcement tools.

  • Obamacare for everyone Sep 12, 2013

    This man was so creepy.

  • davisgw Sep 11, 2013

    Too many people have died from taser use and the cops still defend their use on mental patients pregnant women and other situations where time and patience is the answer.

  • miseem Sep 11, 2013

    What spit second decision are you offering to in this case. There was none other than telling people that were curious as to what was going on to go home and wading the situation out.jjsmith1973.

    So, in your mind the fact that he's naked and acting weird just means to stand back and observe? What if he picks up a rock and comes at you? Is that enough reason to react? How about if he does get away and tries (or does) break into a house. Should you just wait outside and request he come out? Yeah, there was a split second decision to be made. Let him attack you,try to manually restrain him (potentially causing him to die also) while risking him gaining the upper hand (and possibly a gun). You seldom get do overs in a situation like this, and the cop's safety and the safety of the public trumps his right to run around naked and assault people. Of course, I'm sure you would just sit down and try to reason with him, maybe have a kumbiya moment.

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Sep 11, 2013

    The cops felt threatened? Really? They felt their lives were in danger - repeatedly? Wow...


    Naked man comingat me with clinched fists? Yes, I'd feel threatened. Won't stop resisiting? Yep, still threatened.

    Did they fear for their lives? No. He'd have bullet holes in him if that had been the case. Problem didn't come when the police got there. They came because there already was a problem. Punched a 14 year old in the face and ran outside, naked, flipping out. They tried to subdue him, he died.

    Don't hit kids and run around outside naked and the cops won't come. Do, and they will. Dude had issues, no doubt. But you can't bash cops every time they're called and something bad happens to the person they're trying to subdue/question/arrest.

  • Gork Sep 11, 2013

    The cops felt threatened? Really? They felt their lives were in danger - repeatedly? Wow...

  • michaelclay Sep 11, 2013

    "Don't fight police. Seems easy enough."
    Billy the Kid

    That was simply stated and nothing else needs to be said.