Autopsy: Health problems contributed to Raleigh man's Taser-related death
Posted September 10, 2013
Updated September 11, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.