David Smith was a student whose life was cut short, his family said. Minneapolis police defend officers' actions.
The last eight days of David Cornelius Smith's life were spent in a coma from which he never emerged after he was Tasered during a scuffle with two Minneapolis police officers.
Still, his mother said, he has a message to deliver.
"I'm here to do a job for my son because he can't speak for himself," said Diane Smith, less than a day after life support was ended for the 28-year-old Brooklyn Park man. "He wants me to let everyone know that this is unfair and no family should ever be subjected to such cruelness."
David Smith, 28, died Friday night at Hennepin County Medical Center. The Sept. 9 scuffle with Minneapolis police officers Timothy Gorman and Timothy Callahan occurred after Smith refused to leave the YMCA at 30 S. 9th St. and police were called.
Police say Smith was disturbing patrons in the sixth-floor gym, was combative and slightly injured one of the officers before he was Tased and handcuffed. They realized he was having a medical emergency and he was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. His family said he suffered cardiac arrest from the incident and remained on life support until Friday.
Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia defended the officers' actions, saying they "absolutely acted correctly" and that the incident escalated when Smith became combative.
"The escalation of force went up when an officer was hurt. It's really unfortunate, but what really could have prevented this? If Smith would have left when the YMCA asked him to leave and when the officers also asked him to leave. Putting the blame on two fine officers really takes the focus off of inexcusable personal behavior."
Gorman and Callahan were placed on standard paid administrative leave. Both have returned to work. An investigation into the incident continues.
Smith's family members say that they have not been approached by Minneapolis police to discuss what happened.
Though family members had previously reported that David Smith had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Diane Smith said she was not aware of any diagnosis. David Smith's longtime friend, Kirk Foster, with whom Smith was living, said that Smith was seeing a psychiatrist, and had been diagnosed with some condition, though he wasn't certain what.
Family members said Smith, a Peoria, Ill., native, moved to Minneapolis at age 17 with Job Corps, loved the city and decided to stay. He was studying business and political science at Minnesota Community and Technical College. Smith had two misdemeanors on his criminal record.
Family members said they were told by hospital personnel that there were no drugs or alcohol in David Smith's system following the incident. He had no health problems, they said. They were told that Taser marks were on his back.
His sister, Angela Smith, 32, of Atlanta said the family is speaking out because they want people to know not only about the loved one they lost, but to warn others of the dangers they say Tasers pose, and that other nonlethal uses of force should be used by police.
"We are an ordinary family just like the people who will be reading this article," Angela Smith said. "This can happen to anybody, and unfortunately it happened to us."
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921