Local News

Man dies after Raleigh police use stun gun on him

Posted April 10, 2013

— Police say a man died early Wednesday morning near Raleigh's Five Points neighborhood after authorities used a Taser device to try to bring him under control.

Officers were called to the intersection of Wiggs and Mial streets behind Emmanuel Baptist Church around 3:45 a.m. after they received a report of a naked man in the church parking lot yelling obscenities "at the top of his lungs," according to a 911 call in the case.

"The subject became physically aggressive in his dealings with officers, and a conducted-energy device was deployed," police spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

The man, identified as Thomas Jeffery Sadler, 45, collapsed and died. An autopsy will determine his cause of death.

Neighbors said they heard a woman's "blood-curdling scream" from Sadler's home shortly before seeing him outside.

"I saw him up there in the parking lot cursing, F-bombs everywhere, the whole bit," Sue Stevick said.

Neighbors also said that Sadler usually kept to himself. Donna Blasko said she would often see him in yard on the phone but never met him until Monday night while she was driving home from shopping.

"It was a strange encounter," she said. "He kind of ran out in front of my car, stopped me, and I rolled my window down, and he said, 'What's with all the cars going down the street?'"

Raleigh police crime scene Raleigh man dies after police use stun gun

Blasko was unsure of what he was talking about, she said, adding that Sadler then walked away.

According to court records, Sadler was on probation for a speeding to elude arrest charge in Virginia. He had also been convicted of possessing a weapon of mass destruction in Gaston County in 2007.

The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the case, which is standard protocol in police-involved deaths.

Raleigh Police Department policy dictates that conducted-energy devices "may be used when it is necessary to incapacitate or gain compliance from a person that is actively resisting or exhibiting active aggression, or to prevent individuals from harming themselves or others."

Police said the case has nothing to do with the church, but the death still stunned church employees arriving for work Wednesday morning.

"It was really scary. Here is a nice beautiful neighborhood," Portia Perry said. "You don't see things like this every day, so it was kind of nerve-wracking."


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  • stageworx Apr 12, 2013

    It amazes me how quickly we are to write off the lives of people in the news before we even have all the facts. Tommy was a nice guy. I talked to him from time to time at the local coffee shop. He had problems but I don't think that having mental issues is a reason for not having the same considerations that somebody without mental issues.
    I live in a neighborhood that is FULL of law enforcement officers. I take a great amount of comfort in that. I also want those officers to be able to do their jobs without any undo risk so they can return home to their wives and children. I get it.
    I also know people who work in the mental health field and they (nurses, doctors, counselors) are trained to and preform take downs of mental patients and drug affected patients on a regular basis. They don't have body armor, helmets, batons or shields. I'm sure that our Police FORCE could be trained to handle unarmed suspects in the same manner.

  • ossiferbob Apr 11, 2013

    I've "ridden the lightning" twice in training, flying barbs and all. Each time, I was able to draw a rubber pistol from my holster and orient myself toward the person holding the Taser.
    The Taser is NOT a pain compliance tool, it is designed to have its electrical impulse over-ride the subject's brain impulses to his extremities and stop his resistance
    It's not especially painful, mostly very scary. We were all told from childhood, "Stay away from that,it'll KILL you".
    Anybody who wants an accurate opinion on the Taser should "ride the lightning" themselves, otherwise they are only speaking from hype, phobia, and fear. This should include judges, jurors, and prosecutors, especially.

  • Brian Jenkins Apr 11, 2013

    Since WRAL is deciding to not post any of my comments on anything, I will repeat my question:

    What were they supposed to do, shoot him?
    April 11, 2013 1:35 p.m.
    Report abuse

    Do we have a police FORCE or just a police officer?

  • NoWayOut Apr 11, 2013

    Everyone talks about how dangerous a taser is. Everyone thinks that the likelyhood of death or irreversible injury is imminent. How many of you unrealistic jokers actually know that unless you work in a small or unacredited department....... the officer HAS TO BE TASED before being allowed to carry it. How many officers have died or been injured? NONE! Probably because they're not high on meth,coke,heroin,PCP or some other drug the disrupts the bodys NATURAL function!

  • copperino Apr 11, 2013

    eric52272: I wish there were a nicer way to put this, but you, sir, have no clue. A "good wack with a baton or a spray of mace" on a deranged or drugged individual does NOTHING. For all you know, that was tried first and unsuccessful. And the naked crazed man had access to plenty of weapons: the officers' weapons. THAT is why hand-to-hand combat (or "a good wack") unnecessarily puts everyone in danger. A taser is not deadly! People die from tripping on stairs, but that doesn't make all stairs deadly.

  • Wacky_dood Apr 11, 2013

    "Use the Vulcan neck pinch?

    When I was police officer in So California, we used something like that. It was called the carotid control hold. Before the taser, we would have to swarm the perp and someone would jump on his/her back and apply the control hold. To the ignorant, it looked like the officer was choking the suspect--hence the press called it a choke hold.

    A lot of officers were injured and suspects died as a result of the carotid control hold and it was eventually replaced with the much safer and more effective taser.

    Some people don't live in the real world. They live in a clean, sterile environment free from violence and people behaving badly because of drugs or mental disease. They have an unrealistic expectation that no matter how violent or crazy a person is, the police should be able to subdue them without any injuries.

    I love it when people ask "Why not call in a guy with tranquilizer gun?"

  • bill0 Apr 11, 2013

    "What were they supposed to do, shoot him?"

    Generally, they should just maintain the status quo in a standoff until they can get the person under control. The typical guidelines are to not escalate the situation unless there is some sort of imminent danger. The official department line is "The subject became physically aggressive in his dealings with officers", so they had to escalate. The nature of that "aggression" is really what would determine if they officers were justified or not.

  • eric52272 Apr 11, 2013

    I am not in favor of the police not having tasers but I do believe they should use them less frequently. This man was naked according to the reports so I assume he had no weapon. A good wack with a baton or a spray of mace could have gotten him under control. The tazing seems to be dangerous, as he is not the first person to die from it. I feel that tasing should be the last resort before pulling a firearm and shooting the person. Mace, batons, and physical confrontation should come first if the situation needs it, then if unsuccessful use the taser. If the life of someone or an officer is on the line, then use the taser or firearm whichever is most needed in light of the circumstances.

  • stageworx Apr 11, 2013

    I'm not too concerned about a few people dying..

    ...mentally defective

    ...extremely effective tool - DRAGNET1

    I think we see where you are coming from.

  • Barely Apr 11, 2013

    Since WRAL is deciding to not post any of my comments on anything, I will repeat my question:

    What were they supposed to do, shoot him?