Report Reveals Delray Man Died of Drugs, Not TASER


Delray police to defend device use

A man who died in December after police used a Taser stun device on him died from the high levels of cocaine in his body, according to an autopsy report cited by police.

The official word on the death of Timothy Bolander prompted the Delray Beach Police Department at a news conference Tuesday to defend the use of stun devices, though experts still raise questions about the potentially lethal interplay in the body of stimulants such as cocaine and the 50,000 volts of electricity fired by Tasers.

The findings in Bolander''s death were reported as the county''s police chief association is working with the State Attorney''s Office to develop a more uniform standard for Taser use.

Reading from the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner''s autopsy report on Bolander, Delray Beach police spokesman Jeff Messer said the cause of Bolander''s death was "accidental cocaine toxicity."

Tests showed Bolander, 31, had a cocaine toxicity level in his blood of

2.763 milligrams per liter. The lethal level is 5 milligrams per liter, Messer said. And Bolander was found to have ingested four small baggies of illegal drugs that had ruptured, filling his stomach with 1,135 milligrams of cocaine and other substances.

Messer did not have information about why or when Bolander ingested the bags, how long they had been in his body or when the bags ruptured. He said the high level of drugs in Bolander''s system probably accounted for his body temperature of more than 102 degrees half an hour after death.

Bolander also had cocaine-derived compounds, morphine and other opiates in his system, according to the report Messer read. The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner''s Office did not make copies available to the media Tuesday.

"The Taser did not kill this gentleman. His actions, ultimately, led to his own death," Messer said, adding that the department is justified in using Tasers to subdue suspects who resist arrest.

"This vindicates the use of Tasers," Messer said. Asked about the controversy regarding the possible effect of Tasers on a drug-addled body, Messer reiterated the department''s defense of Tasers as a nonlethal device and a better alternative to using an "impact type weapon."

"Believe me, there are panels of experts all over the country discussing this," Messer said.

Reflecting those discussions, the Palm Beach County Police Chief''s Association is considering developing a countywide Taser policy, State Attorney''s Office spokesman Mike Edmondson said.

He said State Attorney Barry Krischer posed the idea months ago. They are collecting and reviewing the use-of-force and Taser policies of the police agencies that use Tasers, officials said.

In a statement, Arizona-based manufacturer Taser International said, "Tasers continue to prevent numerous injuries and save lives every day at over 7,000 law enforcement agencies. It is the safer alternative available to law enforcement to subdue violent individuals who could harm law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves."

Lidia Bolander, 23, Bolander''s estranged wife, referred questions to her attorney, William Tucker, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Records show the couple''s marriage unraveled violently.

In the fall of 2004, Lidia Bolander had called police on several occasions to report Bolander and accuse him of violence. In court records, she describes her estranged husband as a paranoid, abusive crack and heroin addict.

The last call she made to police was Dec. 23, after Timothy Bolander showed up at their Satin Leaf Court home despite a restraining order. Police found Bolander banging his head against a fence post. He continued to behave erratically and did a cartwheel onto the hood of one of the arriving patrol cars.

Officers Steven Hynes and Francisco Casarez Jr. used separate Tasers on Bolander outside his home at 3:30 a.m., making four shots to his chest and back, Messer said. When they overpowered and handcuffed him, Bolander began walking toward one of the patrol cars. Within minutes he collapsed and police called paramedics. Bolander died at about 5 a.m. at Delray Medical Center.

According to Amnesty International, more than 70 people have died in the United States and Canada since 2001 after being struck by Tasers.

In South Florida, five people have died since 2002 after the devices were used on them.

Though a number of deaths around the country involving Tasers have been ruled as drug-related, some experts caution that there is little information on the effect Tasers have on the body and heart, especially when drugs are present, and that no federal agency monitors the use of Tasers.

Roland Kohr, regional medical examiner for 15 counties in western Indiana and eastern Illinois who also teaches criminology at Indiana State University, worked on a case involving Indiana inmate James Borden, who died in prison in Nov. 2003 while high on drugs after being stunned by a Taser.

Kohr ruled that the Taser had been a contributing factor in Borden''s death.

"You can''t just say there were drugs on board so they would have died regardless," Kohr said Tuesday in a phone interview.

Of Bolander''s death he said, "People on cocaine are more susceptible to the effects of any other type of stress. So what you have to look at is the Taser''s effect on the drug-stressed heart. Cocaine raises a person''s blood pressure and heart rate, and the Taser''s going to do the same thing. ...

Both of them together are going to be additive."

 

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