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Doctors rule heart problem, cocaine caused man's death

April 27, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Cardiac arrhythmia associated with cocaine intoxication caused the death of Theodore Rosenberry during a March 24 struggle with two Washington County Sheriff's Department deputies, doctors with the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner have ruled, but whether the Taser used in the struggle had anything to do with his death is undetermined.

Rosenberry, 35, was pronounced dead at Washington County Hospital about 90 minutes after he struggled on U.S. 40 with two deputies who approached him at about 9:30 p.m. because he matched the description of an alleged burglar, Lt. Mark Knight said.

A Taser was used three times to subdue a "combative" Rosenberry, who was found to be unconscious when the deputy who used the Taser - a 19-year department veteran - and the second deputy went to get him off the ground and move him into a police cruiser, Knight said.

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After the incident, both deputies were placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. Both returned to duty effective Tuesday, Knight said.

"There was no excessive use of the Taser," Knight said.

The Taser, a pistol-shaped electrical weapon, was used on Rosenberry in a "drive-stun" method, Knight said. The method involves a close-range stun that uses two contact points to send a five-second burst of 50,000 volts of electricity, Knight said.

"It does put stress on the body, but it's undetermined at this point what role (the Taser) played. It's also undetermined what his physical stature and excited delirium played" in his death, Knight said.

Rosenberry, who was 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed about 270 pounds, was obese by medical standards, had an "enlarged heart" and was found to have cardiac medicine and cocaine in his bloodstream, Knight said.

Knight said Rosenberry was at the scene of a reported burglary in progress at Blaine Window and Hardware, 12421 McDade Road, about 100 yards from where he was seen walking. Deputies found no forced entry at the business and nothing missing, Knight said.

"We don't know how fast he got from Blaine Window to the place he was at on (U.S.) 40. He was wet and perspiring. Steam was coming off of him. There was definitely a case of overexertion at the time of his confrontation with police," Knight said.

When confronted, Rosenberry was exhibiting signs of "excited delirium," a term associated with an "overt demonstration of violent, agitated and combative behavior" associated with someone "under the influence of stimulants," who exhibits great strength and no reaction to pain, Knight explained.

"He was under the influence of cocaine and there was a non-pain compliance. He was talking incoherently and failing to respond to simple commands," Knight said.

Doctors determined that the position of Rosenberry's body - facedown on the ground - did not cause what is called "positional asphyxia," which can sometimes contribute to death in a police struggle, Knight said.

Four doctors with the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner spent much of the day Friday interviewing deputies and witnesses, and visiting the scene of the reported burglary in progress and struggle, Knight said.

Knight, the department's criminal investigations division supervisor and lead Taser instructor, conducted the department's investigation into Rosenberry's death. The Frederick County Sheriff's Office is conducting an internal investigation into the department's policies and procedures and whether they were followed that night.

Knight's investigation report, the preliminary autopsy report and the Frederick County Sheriff's Office's internal investigation report will be forwarded to the Washington County Office of the State's Attorney for review, Knight said.

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