Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Coroner: Taser did not cause man’s death

April 9, 2008


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.


jafs 10 years, 2 months ago

How many posters have caused someone's death?

cowboy 10 years, 2 months ago

Compression of the chest for someone with a heart condition can kill you

LogicMan 10 years, 2 months ago

Has the family/estate hired a team of attorneys yet? Looks like at least two cases are likely, if they so desire. One for excessive force by the police, and one for violation of civil rights against the people that detained him.

Erin Parmelee 10 years, 2 months ago

Sigh. I don't know. Maybe I am biased. I have a really good friend in law enforcement...but I will say this. In all situations, especially ones like this, hindsight is 20/20. Officers, like any profession with rigorous training requirements, have protocols for situations like this, and as far as I can tell, that protocol was followed. It seems easy to place blame now--but how were they to know? If officers took every criminal at their word "I'm not dangerous--I'm sick" do you know how many dead officers we would have?? They are follwing protocol not only to save their own lives, but those of everyday citizens as well. I mean, can you imagine if they had acted differently in this case--backed away, let this guy have some "breathing room" and the guy whipped out a gun and shot an officer and a bystander? The public outcry would be intense, so it's a lose/lose situation for LE.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 2 months ago

Well, I think this is far from over. The cause of death was they way they handled him (face down). If someone can demonstrate that the cops understood his condition (which, I think is not very likely), then culpability may remain.

craigers 10 years, 2 months ago

I like how non-LE like to tell the actual officers what they should have done and how they should be held accountable. No matter how much people want to label officers as dirty cops that are trigger happy, the huge majority of them are great people that lay their lives on the line everyday for the scum that wants them to fail and screw up. How's that for a thankless job?

nekansan 10 years, 2 months ago

Of not the coroner did NOT say that he would have lived had he not been handcuffed. He confirmed that the man was having a heart attack. He very well could have died while traveling 70 miles an hour down highway 24 and we would be reading about an entire family that died in the resulting accident.

inluelty 10 years, 2 months ago

@nekansan - given that his keys were in the possession of LE, I don't think there was much chance of him traveling 70 miles an hour down highway 24. I don't think he could run that fast.

redfred 10 years, 2 months ago

I'd like to know many posters have done something that at the time they thought was the right thing to do, only to find out latter, it had unforeseen consequences?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 2 months ago

"In all situations, especially ones like this, hindsight is 20/20."Yeah, this isn't so much about excessive force as it is about what the officers knew and what they decided to do with that information.Whether or not the KNEW he was in cardiac arrest is an issue.Whether or not they believed his resistance was due to a medical condition OR due to a lack of willingness to cooperate with law enforcement is another critical issue.None of us - or the cops themselves - are medical doctors. We, like they, are at a loss of expertise to determine what was or wasn't appropriate in that moment - EXCEPT for how they chose to respond to the FACTS they actually DID have. Guesses and speculations are worthless.

WHY 10 years, 2 months ago

So are they ever going to tell us what this mans offense was. What did he do that required him to be handcuffed. LJW why not do some reporting and get me an answer.

HootyWho 10 years, 2 months ago

Being diabetic would explain why he was uncoopertive, and why he declined help, I just don't think they needed to taze him,I love the Police, they keep us safe, and most just want to be able to go home at the end of their shift, but sometimes they need to listen more

craigers 10 years, 2 months ago

I don't have an anger problem smitty. My problem is that anytime an officer does something following his/her training and somebody dies, the public wants to crucify them before any investigation is done. Are there bad apples? Of course. But when you first hear of an incident with very little details like the late breaking stuff on here, and you read people's comments try telling me there isn't a crucify any cop that hurts somebody mentality (Without any regard to the circumstances and whether the officer acted correctly).

huntershaven 10 years, 2 months ago

Tasers are not non-lethal devices. They are officially classified as less than lethal devices under most circumstances, just like gas cartridge grenade launchers (tear gas launchers for example), specialty bean bag and tear gas rounds for 12 gauge shotguns and so on. Under most circumstances such devices are generally considered less than lethal and that is how they are marketed to police departments and other law enforcement agencies.If you are hit in the right area of your body, or have the right medical conditions, even a less than lethal device can be lethal. Taser International offers a thick tome of their research on real life examples of potential problems that might result with the misuse or improper use of their product, however, that book is only available to law enforcement agencies. It is discussed in the marketing literature send to law enforcement agencies and licensed dealers.As for how the man died, it makes no difference if he died because of complications due to being tased or from the process of being handcuffed due to his existing medical condition. We may not know if he could have lived if he had been left alone or if the deputies had not tased him, cuffed him and delayed his access to medical attention. However, we do know that he died while in the custody of law enforcement officers and that the circumstances surrounding the event are in need of detailed review.I really don't care if it was the actions of his coworkers or the deputies that potentially contributed to his death, what I do care about is that there is an investigation, preferably independently performed by an uninterested party and all evidence be considered.I will say though that due to the number of taser incidents, especially ones with negative coverage, I am hesitant to believe that the deputies are innocent of any wrongdoing at this time.

mistygreen 10 years, 2 months ago

I'm sorry, but the Shawnee Co. Sheriff's deputy used poor judgement. Where did this guy exhibit some kind of threat? He was combative, but heck, I would be too if I did not feel well and wanted to be left alone. He expressed that, he told them NO. What part of NO do they not understand? Their concern was for his safety. If that was the case, why did the taser him? What gives LE the right to FORCE you into submission. This man had rights, and they were violated. Furthermore for all that support the LE action in this case, why the big rush to taser him? You all talk about the training and everything, but what about just using good judgement. This man was not a criminal, he was ill. There is a HUGH differece. I'm sure they ran a check on his id. They know if the guy was a potiental problem. This is so scary....what would happen to a poor individual that might have Alzhemer's? They can be combative, is LE going to taser them into submission too?

JimL 10 years, 2 months ago

It is absolutely amazing that the coroner could come to the cause of death he did when it has been shown in the latest studies that taser shocks can and do kill.....up to minutes after the shock is administered by causing ventricular fibrillation. It is almost as if he is trying to cover up or protect the police from having their tasers taken away. Here is a URL to one of the studies. fact that our coroner doesn't even bother to keep up with the medical literature isn't surprising considering his past issues....

beadew 10 years, 2 months ago

David Eldridge thinks "if a person is unwilling to submit to law enforcement requests or commands, that indicates a potential threat (regardless of further justification). "There is no law on the books that I am aware of that requires any individual to "submit to law enforcement requests or commands." This would be the definition of a totalitarian state such as Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, but not a "free country" - so which is Kansas anyway? I think the best way to "undermine authority" of out-of-control cops is to take away the Tasers AND the guns. At minimum, Taser use by officers should be sujected to the same policy as any other weapons discharge - generally suspension of the officer pending an investigation. These yahoos are still on the streets and still packing their deadly Tasers, if earlier reports are correct. Something is definitely wrong here. And that coroner sounds like another loose nut - porno shots of dead bodies in the morgue in NY? Yuck!

David Eldridge 10 years, 2 months ago

It is not strange that so many are willing to condemn this deputy. However, I am glad that the law requires a proper trial, because she would already have died if this lynch mob had been given free course.There are some strange circumstances that surround this situation, notable are these: Mr. Haake was apparently resistant to the counsel, care and directives of coworkers, local security and finally the officers. I think if a person is unwilling to submit to law enforcement requests or commands, that indicates a potential threat (regardless of further justification). While he is free, he exhibited signs that he was a potential threat to those that may cross his path in his drive back to Lawrence from Topeka, based on his behavior. In America, we stop drunks and sleepy people for that, even if we only prosecute drunks. His behavior during the arrest is unknown, but in the absence of that some have been very willing to call into question--not his character (though he is the one who apparently merited dispatch), but--the deputy who responded. I do not think the outcome is good. Neither do I think that you should bound to obey security guards, generally. Nor do I think you should be kept from going home when you are sick. But he posed a threat to other drivers and passengers, and his disobedience was at least menacing. Please give this more consideration, before you undermine the authority that may have been well executed.

mistygreen 10 years, 2 months ago

David_Eldridge writes:"But he posed a threat to other drivers and passengers, and his disobedience was at least menacing. Please give this more consideration, before you undermine the authority that may have been well executed."What you may not know but has been stated previously...LE had his car keys. He was not going to go anywhere. Unless I missed something, all he did was refuse treatment, and only became combative after they tasered him twice. I still believe that the deputy could of used better judgement in handling this situation. Yes, hind sight is 20/20, but we are trusting as a society in LE to use adequate judgement in every scenerio. In this case, they were lacking good judgement.

jonas 10 years, 2 months ago

This doesn't negate the question of whether Tazing him was the right thing to do in the situation. Regardless, I don't think it helped.

igby 10 years, 2 months ago

This was after his heart was in V-Vibe from being tasered. Get the court to order a independent report from a Doctor who's not on the county's payroll.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

its_getting_warmer (Anonymous) says: "Nope. Some conclusions simply can't be made. Just because the medical examiner says UFO's are true, does not make it true. 1) when the medical examiner wrote conclusions about legal "intent" in the incident, he has no legal basis to make such conclusion, and 2) when the medical examiner concludes in this case that the taser had no effect, he had no medical basis or ability to make that conclusion."Really? Besides the fact that people like you that insist this must be manslaughter or murder are doing exactly that - ascribing intent - I suppose it hasn't occured to you that a coroner's very job is to determine cause of death - i.e., the means and the circumstances - and that yes, a trained forensic physician will have physical evidence as to what those means are, and making a ruling such as homicide/suicide/accident IS a legal conslusion involving intent?Someday a coroner may even be able to tell that your own cause of death was stupidity.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 2 months ago

I would agree with the comments here suggesting that the Coroner made medical and legal conclusions beyond his ability or expertise.===========Yeah, unlike all the "experts" here on the message board.

domovik 10 years, 2 months ago

Okay people-enough already with the DGCO/SNCO coroner crap! Do you not understand that they are one in the same? I am so tired of this paper printing that Douglas County has it's own coroner. They do not. They contract out and share a coroner with Shawnee County. Do a little research before you start to type with your little fingers and not just on this topic but on all the other ones that you seem so inclined to rant over.

David Eldridge 10 years, 2 months ago

@beadew: What would you consider the charge "Resisting Arrest" to be directed against if not disobedience against an officer?To other comments, what is the source of the information that I overlooked: Keys were taken by LE already? How did he get in the car? Additionally, if a suspect or even a patient is resisting your commands and you have a weapon or group of them, I think it is reasonable to think that there is a reason he feels "froggy." It would make me a little more than suspicious.

Crossfire 10 years, 2 months ago you cut a mans throat and hang him by his heels would the cause of his death be gravity?

Jim Phillips 10 years, 2 months ago

This is what I love about Lawrence, sooooo many out of work doctors and lawyers--and they all blog too!

doc1 10 years, 2 months ago

Marion. You are an idiot. Smitty, the same for you. Go back to putting tin foil up to keep the government scanners from taking over.

Godot 10 years, 2 months ago

Where in the CPR handbook does it call for a taser to restrain the agitated heart attack vicitm and placing him face down with arms forced behind in handcuffs?This sounds like negligent homicide on the part of the police officers. Book 'em, Danno.

Jim Phillips 10 years, 2 months ago

And if Mr. Haake was having a heart attack that was severe enough to cause cardiac arrest, one of the options the medics would have had available to them was a defibrilator-which jolts the cardiac muscle with an electric shock.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

Gee, sorry I joined this one late. Let me try and catch up quick:smitty (Anonymous) says: "How come we never hear of a death by handcuff from the S&M practitioners?"Not that I know much about it, but I haven't heard of too many people who play adult games that involve having their arms pinned behind them with a couple of donut-eating cops kneeling on their back."How does the coroner evaluate the bruises did not contributed to the death?"I suppose if you had a physician's license - like the coroner does - you could answer that question for yourself.***LogicMan (Anonymous) says: "Has the family/estate hired a team of attorneys yet?"That was a joke, right? You think ambulance-chasers don't read the newspaper?****plumberscrack (Anonymous) says: "Let me get this right. The guy didn't die from cops using taser gun, they killed him by excessive force in handcuffing him? Isn't it murder either way?"Well, first of all, when the coroner signs a death certificate saying accidental death, no, it's not murder. Pretty much by definition. Second, who said anything about "excessive" force? Just because he had a heart condition that proved fatal when put into a position that wouldn't have hurt 99.99% of the rest of us doesn't mean they did anything "excessive."****its_getting_warmer (Anonymous) says: "And I would agree with the comments here suggesting that the Coroner made medical and legal conclusions beyond his ability or expertise."Because you, with all your medical and legal expertise, examined the body yourself and reached a different conclusion?

Godot 10 years, 2 months ago

Gee, lets all trade in our defribrillators for tasers - they are cheaper and work better - so says Guardian. And lets trade cardio resuscitation for "face down, hands behind the back."

Godot 10 years, 2 months ago

,....and don't forget prolonged compression of the chest as a result of being forced to lie face down with arms held behind the back.Book her, Danno. And don't let her anywhere near anyone who is in a medical emergency ever again.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 2 months ago

The cops will be held innocent. They have their own "internal investigation unit" just like they do here in Laawrence. They will get away with whatever this event is eventually decided to be, murder, manslaughter, or just good old boy Sheriff Buford's boys did. It has happened here in Lawrence and there is absolutely no one who will investigate, examine or oppose the results of the "investigation" of the "internal investigation unit" Cover your A%%, that is the word of the day for these "units". I know.

Gina Bailey-Carbaugh 10 years, 2 months ago

isn't it sad that some of us need to blame others, to find fault or to look for a cover-up. May be is was simply a tragic serious of events. Only those there know for sure what happened and surely that will all be decided in the court system, where it should.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

frwent (Anonymous) says: "They will get away with whatever this event is eventually decided to be, murder, manslaughter, or just good old boy Sheriff Buford's boys did."And again, if you bothered to read the opening sentence of the article, the coroner has ruled it an accidental death. One just might think it would be difficult to convince a jury that anyone was guilty of manslaughter or murder when the coroner - whose job it is to determine such things - has already ruled it accidental.

Crossfire 10 years, 2 months ago

Just heard the FBI is taking this over.

redneck 10 years, 2 months ago

Tasers should be outlawed. You may not know this, but .5 amps directly across you're heart can stop it from beating. That amount can even stop a horses' heart from beating. At even 200 volts, it can be fatal. I'm pretty sure tasers put out more than 200 volts. There is no way to control the path of current when using a taser, since it takes the path of least resistance. Mace is just as affective and I'm pretty sure it won't stop your heart. If LE really wants to protect the public, they would use mace instead. He may have deserved to be arrested, but he didn't deserve to die.

lounger 10 years, 2 months ago

Ummmm.....B.S.! Let an outsider have a professional opinion on the matter. How about a Douglas county coroner putting in his/her two sense worth? Shawnee county is scary-they ( law enforcement ) back each other up regardless of right or wrong. I lived there ( topeka ) for a few years and knew of many people who got shafted so as to keep things quiet or as to not get sued. Of course it contributed to his death-he had a heart condition! To say otherwise is a coverup. Dont get in trouble in Shawnee county and if you do make sure you have a fat bank account (IF you live through it!).

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

its_getting_warmer (Anonymous) says: "notajayhawk: you've obviously watched far far too many CSI type shows."Whereas your education extends as far as the LJW message boards.Ask a pathologist how cause of death can be determined. Ask any physician about the chemicals in the blood when one suffers a heart attack. Ask anyone who knows what they're talking about rather than continuing with your incredible ignorance. And anyone with a fourth grade education probably knows it's the coroner's very job to determine cause of death, which involves means and circumstances. When the coroner fills in that little box with homicide-accident-suicide etc., it necessarily involves a measure of intent. You could probably have figured that out from a dictionary, if you'd ever opened one.As to your question to Guardian, if all you fine folks aren't cop haters, why are you so quick to insist that the cops murdered this guy and the coroner is covering it up, when you obviously have absolutely no idea what you're talking about?

Jim Phillips 10 years, 2 months ago

Gina,How can you sit there and question all of these cop-hating lawyers, doctors, scientists, and engineers who know sooooo much more than anyone else about this situation! There are so many experts on this thread that the facts really don't matter. These people really should become criminal investigators. They can solve crimes faster than CSI.

Jim Phillips 10 years, 2 months ago

Does the term "positional asphyxia" mean anything to anybody out there? I would be surprised if it did to most of you "EXPERTS".

Jim Phillips 10 years, 2 months ago

Nope, not everyone. And if you re-read my post you will see i didn't say everybody. i do try not to speak in absolutes, unlike many people on the boards.

domovik 10 years, 2 months ago

How can the Dg Co coroner obstruct justice by altering facts when there is no Dg Co coroner?

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