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N.Y. police: cocaine, not TASER, killed suspect

Related article: New study: TASERs "as safe as weapons can be," not "instruments of death"

By Bill Mason

NEW YORK — A drug suspect who Southampton police said they had to Taser twice to stop him from swallowing a potentially lethal amount of cocaine died nine hours later at a Riverhead hospital, Suffolk police said Tuesday.

Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police Homicide squad, which is investigating the death, said the ingested cocaine, not the Taser shocks, likely caused the death, but a final determination of a cause from the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's office is not expected for several weeks.

Tony Curtis Bradway, 26, of Brooklyn, was pronounced dead at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead at about 7:30 p.m. Monday.

"It's believed that he ingested a significant amount of cocaine," Fitzpatrick said. "There's no reason to believe the Taser had anything to do with it. It delivers a shock, but it doesn't deliver a shock that should stop your heart."

Bradway is the fifth man to have been tasered and then later die in police custody in the area since 2004. David Glowczenski, 35, of Southampton died after Southampton police used pepper spray and a Taser on him in 2004. John Cox, 39, of Ronkonkoma died in 2005 while Suffolk police tried to subdue him and used a Taser. Terrence Thomas, 35, of Hempstead died in 2005 after officers in Queens stunned him with a Taser.

Blondel Lassegue, 38, of Flatbush, Brooklyn, died in 2007 after police used a Taser on him.

The medical examiner did not attribute any of these deaths to the effects of the Taser.

Fitzpatrick said Tuesday that two Southampton police were responding to an unrelated call in a room rented at a house in Shinnecock Hills Monday morning, when they came upon Bradway and two others asleep in the living room of the residence.

Bradway, who was released in April on parole for a 2005 drug conviction, was sleeping in the living room of that house, as was a woman and another man.

The officers saw crack near the woman, and a crack pipe in one of her hands, Fitzpatrick said. The officers woke her up, and were preparing to place her under arrest, when Bradway, who was on another couch, woke up, and began arguing with the officers, Fitzpatrick said. When Bradway got up from the couch, a plastic bag containing cocaine became visible, but Bradway put the bag in his mouth, apparently trying to get rid of the evidence, police said.

"He was trying to chew and swallow this cocaine,' Fitzpatrick said. "They [the officers] were trying to get it, to get him to spit it out. ... They recognized there was a significant amount of danger in his swallowing that amount of cocaine."

When Bradway wouldn't spit it out, one of the officers shocked him twice with a Taser, Fitzpatrick said, adding, "He spits out torn up plastic and white paste."

Bradway was taken to Southampton Police headquarters, where he admitted that the powder was cocaine, and that the bag contained two to four grams of the drug, police said. He was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead at about noon, police said. There, he told doctors that it was actually 5 or 6 grams of cocaine that were in the bag, Fitzpatrick said. It was unknown how much of the substance Bradway may have ingested, police said. Bradway was left by Southampton police in the care of the hospital staff, Fitzpatrick said, and were informed later Monday that he had died, Fitzpatrick said.

At the four-story brick apartment building in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn where Bradway had most recently lived his mother, a brother and a sister, the superintendent said news of his death was disturbing.

"I'm very sad to hear he's gone," said Bro Apollo, 63. "This is shocking to me that he was all the way in Riverhead."

Apollo said Bradway delivered groceries for a neighborhood market and was often seen with his girlfriend and young daughter.

Copyright 2008 Newsday

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