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Deputies used Taser on suspect who died

March 30, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY

A Taser was used to subdue a man who died after a struggle with Washington County Sheriff's Department deputies Friday night, but whether the pistol-shaped electrical weapon was used improperly or whether its use contributed to the man's death was still under investigation, Sheriff Charles Mades said Wednesday.

"We have nothing to show it (the Taser) was recklessly misused," Lt. Mark Knight, supervisor of the department's criminal investigations division and its senior Taser instructor, said Wednesday.

Mades said he decided last Friday not to release to the public that a Taser was used during the struggle because the investigation was in its early stages. He said the family was told about the Taser at the hospital Friday night.

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"It was a decision that I had to make that we wouldn't discuss the particulars," Mades said. "We didn't deny it. To me, it's not an issue."

Knight is investigating what happened during the struggle between two deputies - one of whom used the Taser - and Theodore Rosenberry, a 35-year-old Hagerstown man the officers approached because he matched the description of a possible burglar. Knight said he also is investigating what led to the struggle.

An unnamed police agency outside the county was performing an internal investigation into "policy issues surrounding use of force," Knight said.

Knight would not release how many times police used a Taser on Rosenberry. He could say that police used a "drive-stun" method, a close-range stun that uses two contact points to send a five-second burst of 50,000 volts of electricity.

The deputies involved in the struggle were placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. Knight would not release the names of the deputies involved, but he said the deputy who used the Taser is a 19-year department veteran and the other deputy is a four-year veteran.

The results of Rosenberry's autopsy were not available Wednesday.

Rosenberry was seen walking on U.S. 40 at about 9:30 p.m., about 10 minutes after the Sheriff's Department received a call about a burglary in progress at Blaine Window and Hardware at 12421 McDade Road, about 100 yards from where Rosenberry was seen walking, Knight said.

A person had called the department to report a "suspicious man walking down (U.S.) 40," Knight said. No forced entry was found at Blaine Window and Hardware and no items were found to be missing.

At about the same time, Maryland State Police were called to check on a disabled vehicle on U.S. 40, he said. Troopers found a Penske truck with Rosenberry's wife inside.

Knight said that police believe Rosenberry "left her in the truck. We don't know whether there was an argument or what."

He said police were trying to determine what happened before Rosenberry left the truck to help them determine what contributed to his demeanor that night.

When deputies approached Rosenberry, he ran across U.S. 40 and fell down, Knight said. In the original written release, the department said Rosenberry was uncooperative, a struggle ensued and Rosenberry was handcuffed.

"The officers went to get him up off the ground and found him to be unconscious," the release states.

CPR was performed at the scene and Rosenberry was transported to Washington County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly before 11 p.m.

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