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4 officers, K-9 injured in melee with naked teen

Four Fla. deputies were injured after tangling with a young man that walked into a home, began ranting gibberish and stripped naked before fighting them

By Sonja Isger
The Palm Beach Post

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Four Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies were injured after tangling with a young man they say walked into someone's home in suburban Lake Worth on Saturday, began ranting gibberish and eventually stripped naked before fighting them in the backyard.

It was the second time in a week that deputies have encountered what they believe is a person driven to violence by 'excited delirium.'

The previous encounter, Tuesday night west of Delray Beach left 28-year-old Anesson Joseph dead, shot by deputies after a rampage that sent two people to the hospital.

Conrad Hopper, 17, ended Saturday's encounter locked to a hospital bed at Wellington Regional Medical Center, according to an arrest report released by Sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera on Sunday morning.

Hopper faces charges that range from burglary to aggravated battery on four deputies and a police dog.

Excited delirium is an uncommon disorder that has been described as "an acute psychotic episode." It gained attention in the 1980s as authorities in Miami grappled with the side effects of a wave of crack cocaine abuse.

While drugs can trigger an episode of excited delirium, they are not necessarily a required ingredient  some cases can be triggered by extreme stress, emergency doctors report.

Few other mental illnesses can result in such "malicious, destructive behavior," Dr. Scott McFarland, emergency room director at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, told The Palm Beach Post this week.

Saturday's event began when someone walked in on a 15-year-old boy as he fed his aunt's dog in her home in the Tropical Country Estates neighborhood west of Florida's Turnpike and south of Lake Worth Road.

The boy told authorities he recognized the intruder as a teenager in the neighborhood. The boy's mother told the Palm Beach Post Sunday that the intruder has threatened violence against another child in the family in the past year.

The intruder, later identified as Hopper, seemed intoxicated, but not drunk, according to the arrest report. The teen in the home said Hopper touched his face and tried to take off the teen's glasses. Then as teen walked away, the intruder began to strip.

The teen ran out the home's back door and called 911.

Four deputies arrived at the home in the 9200 block of Bracelet Drive. Two went around back and report they witnessed Hopper inside, pacing, clenching his fist and "yelling and breaking things."

His rants made no sense: "5,6,7,8 ... grandma...grandma...girlfriend...1,2,3,4," one deputy wrote. The deputy suspected excited delirium was at play.

Trouble started when Hopper headed out back armed with what looked like a large metal object and turned out to be a clock with sharp utensils protruding from it.

Deputies alerted him to their presence and demanded he lie on the ground. Hopper sat. And then stood again, clock in hand.

Deputies released the police dog. Hopper punched the dog's head and "attempted to gouge out the dog's eyes." That's when the two deputies moved in and in the battle, one deputy's arm was fractured, according to the report.

The two other deputies joined the fray to help.

In the turmoil, the deputy who wrote the report said he hit Hopper several times in the back ribs using a police baton to no effect.

Another deputy fired a Taser, but Hopper didn't stop.

In the report, the deputy estimated it took six more deputies and several Palm Beach County fire fighters who arrived on the scene to subdue Hopper.

"Conrad Hopper fought violently with deputies for approximately 10 minutes from initial contact until final restraint," the deputy wrote.

Even a Valium in the ambulance ride to the hospital was not effective in calming him, the report said.

Studies have shown that excited delirium develops from a disorder or an excess of dopamine in the brain, she said. There is likely a gene that the patient has that can be muted until one specific event triggers the disorder.

Those people "could go on with life and never have the condition manifest," explained Dr. Deborah Mash at the Excited Delirium Education Research and Information Center at the University of Miami.

The psychotic episode can suddenly develop if "they start using cocaine, or are under extreme stress, or (have an) underlying psychiatric condition." She thinks further research will give more information as to what other causes are.

Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Post


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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