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Police justified in Tasering of mentally ill man, D.A. says

March 15, 2012 |  4:53 pm

San Bernardino police officers who used a Taser on a mentally ill man shortly before he died were justified in their actions, the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office said Thursday.

Sgts. Eric Fyvie and Travis Walker and Officers Von Verbanic and Joey Zinkand acted in a legal way when they restrained Frank Cleo Sutphin, 19, who suffered from schizophrenia and depression and was living at a San Bernardino care facility when he died.

The incident occurred in October 2009 when police were called to the care facility. They were told about a fight at the home and that one man was armed with scissors.

When the officers arrived, Sutphin was acting aggressively and at some point tried to walk away. Two officers tried to restrain him but he fought back, according to the report. When three or four of the officers couldn’t subdue him, they used the stun gun multiple times.

Coroner’s officials told the district attorney's office that Sutphin's exact cause of death could not be determined and that it is unknown if the Taser contributed.

The district attorney'’s office concluded that the officers had a duty to detain Sutphin to complete their investigation and to prevent him from harming himself or others and that they were legally entitled to use reasonable force.

Sutphin's short life was a difficult one, according to details included in the report. As an infant, he was left alone for days at a time and he was in and out of foster care from the age of 4.


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-- Paloma Esquivel