By Scott Rothschild
April 10, 2008 ljworld.com
Topeka — Two Shawnee County, Kansas sheriff’s deputies have been placed on administrative leave in connection with the death of a Lawrence man who was stunned three times with a Taser and handcuffed after authorities said he refused to get out of his vehicle to receive medical help.
Sheriff Richard Barta has declined to identify the deputies involved in the incident, but said he has requested that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation “conduct a death investigation.”
Walter Edward Haake Jr., 59, was an employee at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. plant.
After work on March 29, the sheriff’s office was called to try to stop Haake from driving away because he had been acting disoriented, possibly from a head injury, officials said.
But Haake refused to leave his vehicle, authorities said. Officers took his keys away and then stunned him with a Taser three times, authorities said.
When he got out of his car, there was “a brief physical confrontation” and Haake was handcuffed, according to authorities. He then collapsed and was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
On Tuesday, the Shawnee County Coroner’s Office ruled the death accidental.
Haake had a history of heart disease and diabetes, Coroner Erik Mitchell said in a press release.
“Mr. Haake died while held face down on the ground and as handcuffs were applied,” Mitchell said.
“The cause of death is of cardiac nature with contribution by compression of the torso. Consequently, this is an accidental death,” he said. Mitchell declined to provide any information aside from what was contained in the news release.
Friends of Haake said the deputies should not have used force to try to get him out of his vehicle since he was suffering from some kind of injury or illness and the deputies had already prevented him from being a public danger by taking away his car keys.
The two sheriff’s deputies were placed on administrative leave with pay. In a news release, the sheriff’s office said it wouldn’t provide any further information “to protect the integrity of this investigation.”
The Haake family has declined to comment on the incident.