Coroner: Taser did not cause man’s death

The Shawnee County Coroner’s Office on Tuesday called the recent death of a Lawrence man accidental and said it was not caused by use of a Taser stun gun.

Walter E. Haake Jr., 59, died last month after an altercation with Shawnee County Sheriff’s officers at Topeka’s Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant.

In a released statement, Coroner Erik Mitchell said Haake’s death was accidental.

“The cause of death is of cardiac nature, with contribution by compression of the torso,” the report said. Mitchell was unavailable for comment Tuesday evening.

Haake had a history of cardiac disease and diabetes mellitus, according to the coroner’s release. And the positioning of his body at the time of death also was a contributing factor, Mitchell found.

“Haake died while held face down on the ground and as handcuffs were applied,” the release said. “Sudden death occasionally results from positional mechanisms and from cardiac mechanisms when persons are held in the position described.”

Mitchell reviewed witness statements and audio from an in-car monitor and determined Haake was alive after being stunned with a Taser to his left thigh and right arm. He reported there were no internal injuries that contributed to Haake’s death.

The deputies had arrived at the plant after 11 p.m. March 29, responding to a medical call. The plant’s security had attempted to prevent Haake from leaving the plant because they didn’t think he could drive safely. The sheriff’s office has reported that Haake was uncooperative, and he was stunned with a Taser three times.

Sharon Mandel, chief medical investigator with the coroner’s office, said the findings were preliminary and a complete report will be issued following toxicology test results.