County orders inquest into West Seattle man’s death

January 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle police | 5 Comments

Four months ago, we reported that a Harbor Avenue man was in the hospital after his third encounter with police in 24 hours – who were reported to have used a Taser on him after behavior that was described as a vandalism rampage in his own apartment building with a sword. Days later, two WSB commenters reported that the man had died; we were never able to get official information on that – but now, we’ve learned it’s true, via the county’s announcement that an inquest has been ordered:

King County Executive Dow Constantine today ordered an inquest into the death of Mike Chen, who died on or about September 10, 2012 following a confrontation with police outside his West Seattle apartment four days earlier.

According to a letter from the King County Prosecutor, Seattle Police responded to numerous call-outs involving Mr. Chen at a convenience store and at his apartment complex, both on Harbor Ave. SW. On Sept. 6, police responding to a call from Chen found him slumped on the ground with a sword in front of an apartment door at 3213 Harbor Avenue SW. Police say when Chen grabbed the sword and started to sit up, they tased him several times during a struggle, then administered CPR when Chen showed no pulse after being handcuffed and restrained. He was rushed to Harborview, where he died on or about Sept. 10.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office has indicated the cause of death was associated with excited delirium and following physical restraint, along with acute methamphetamine intoxication. The manner of death is listed as undetermined.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg recommended the inquest after his office reviewed materials from the Seattle Police Department, which conducted the investigation.

Inquests are fact-finding hearings conducted before a six-member jury. Under a standing Executive Order they are routinely called to determine the causes and circumstances of any death involving a member of any law enforcement agency within King County while in the performance of his or her duties.

Inquests provide transparency into law enforcement actions so the public may have all the facts established in a court of law. The ordering of an inquest should carry no other implication. Inquest jurors answer a series of interrogatories to determine the significant factual issues involved in the case, and it is not their purpose to determine whether any person or agency is civilly or criminally liable.

The order signed by the Executive requests King County District Court Presiding Judge Corinna Harn to assign a judge to set a date and conduct the inquest.

The ordering of inquests is a function vested in the county executive under the King County Code.

5 Comments

  1. It is interesting that the Medical Examiner’s office continues to use the controversial term “excited delirium” as there still are no professional medical organizations (including the American Medical Association) that recognize it as an actual medical condition. But if it is true that Mr. Chen was on meth at the time that apparently does significantly raise the lethality risk with TASERs.

    Comment by cjboffoli — 1:07 pm January 10, 2013 #

  2. Would ‘excited delirium’ just be a catchall term for ‘someone acting crazy’ ?

    Comment by B — 1:54 pm January 10, 2013 #

  3. He was on much more than meth. Polydrug + taser= trouble.

    Comment by Buck38 — 3:57 am January 11, 2013 #

  4. Tasers= non lethal force?
    Guess not!!

    Comment by Young Lino — 8:22 am January 11, 2013 #

  5. Excited Delirium is not a medical condition, it is a physical state the body enters into which include significantly raised body temperature, increased respiration and heart rate, and a super human strength and tolerance to pain. This condition is considered a medical crisis by Dr Kopus, the emergency medical director at Harborview Medical Center. These individuals usually can not be subdued by physical strength regardless of the number of individuals trying.

    Historically the use of a Taser on these individuals increases their survivability as the key factor in the survival rate is the speed in which they receive medical attention. The Nero-Muscular Lockup a successful Taser application creates allows officers to quickly subdue the patient, and provide medical care. Paramedics will not enter the scene of a excited delirium incident until it is secured due the the safety concerns involved.

    The individual had a sword, and super human strength and medical treatment was needed as soon as possible, absent shooting the patient, what other means could the officers have used?

    The Taser didn’t kill him, the physical state of his body did. Had a Taser not been appropriately deployed, and the Officers not been able to subdue him, the patient’s passing would simply have come sooner.

    Comment by Mike — 8:46 pm January 11, 2013 #

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