Jerseyville, Ill. A teenager carrying a Bible and shouting "I want Jesus" was shot twice with a police stun gun and later died at a St. Louis hospital, authorities said.
In a statement obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, police in Jerseyville, about 40 miles north of St. Louis, said 17-year-old Roger Holyfield would not acknowledge officers who approached him in an intersection and he continued yelling, "I want Jesus."
Police tried to calm the teen, but Holyfield became combative, according to the statement. Officers fired the stun gun at him after he ignored their warnings, then fired again when he continued struggling, police said.
Holyfield was flown to St. Louis' Cardinal Glennon Hospital after the confrontation Saturday; he died there Sunday, police said.
After a preliminary autopsy Tuesday, deputy chief medical examiner Dr. Phillip Burch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the boy might have died of "excited delirium" and that "he could have dropped dead without being Tased." He said he did not see overt signs of injury or foul play.
Excited delirium can be brought on by mental illness or drugs, Burch said. Complete results will not be available for at least six weeks, when toxicology tests are returned.
Messages left for Burch by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.
The statement obtained Tuesday expressed sympathy to Holyfield's family but said city and police officials would not discuss the matter further.
It was not immediately clear whether Holyfield was mentally ill.
Calls Tuesday to Jerseyville Police Chief Brad Blackorby were not immediately returned. The department has been using stun guns for about five months, according to the statement.
Holyfield's family members also did not return phone messages.
In a report released in March, international human rights group Amnesty International said it had logged at least 156 deaths across the country in the previous five years related to police stun guns.
The rise in deaths accompanies a marked increase in the number of U.S. law enforcement agencies employing devices made by Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz. About 1,000 of the nation's 18,000 police agencies used Tasers in 2001; more than 7,000 departments had them last year, according to a government study.
Police had used Tasers more than 70,000 times as of last year, Congress' Government Accountability Office said.
Amnesty International has urged police departments to suspend the use of Tasers pending more study. Taser International said the group's count was flawed and falsely linked deaths to Taser use when there has been no such official conclusion.