Minneapolis death after police Taser incident is ruled a homicide

  • Article by: LORA PABST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 28, 2009 - 11:22 PM

Quincy Smith, 24, died of cardiorespiratory arrest after the Dec. 9 confrontation, but the medical examiner said that doesn't imply murder. His mother is seeking answers.

The death of a 24-year-old Minneapolis man last December after he fought with police and was shot with a Taser has been ruled a homicide caused by cardiorespiratory arrest, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner.

Quincy DeShawn Smith, a former radio DJ, died around 12:45 a.m. Dec. 9 after a confrontation with officers who had been called to the 1000 block of Knox Avenue N. on a report of a domestic assault involving a man with a gun. He struggled with officers as they tried to arrest him and was Tasered.

Shortly after Smith was subdued, he experienced a medical problem and later died at Hennepin County Medical Center.

The cause of death released by the medical examiner Wednesday was "cardiorespiratory arrest complicating physical exertion with law enforcement subdual and restraint." While the manner of death was listed as homicide, medical examiner Andrew Baker cautioned that the definition of homicide is not tantamount to murder. "In the medical examiner world, it simply means that other people were involved in the individual's death," he said. "It doesn't imply that it was murder or malfeasance or acting outside the scope of professional conduct."

The medical examiner's release did not say whether the Taser shock was a factor in Smith's death.

Baker said that he could not comment on whether Smith had drugs or alcohol in his system, but said that all factors in Smith's death were listed in the official cause of death.

The case has been forwarded to the Hennepin County attorney's office for investigation, Baker said. The county attorney's office does not comment on ongoing investigations.

Betty Smith, Quincy's mother, said she will continue to push for answers from officials about what led to her son's death. "I have a grandson whose father was taken away wrongly, and he has to grow up and honor his dad, but he also needs to know the truth about what happened," she said.

Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer said the department's criminal investigation has been completed by the homicide unit and will also be forwarded to the county attorney's office to determine if any criminal charges will be filed. The department's internal investigation into whether the use-of-force policy was followed is ongoing, he said.

When officers responded to the scene, Smith was outside of the house and one officer said he had a gun, according to Palmer. A rifle was recovered the day after the incident, he said.

Betty Smith said she is waiting for a complete police report into whether the rifle found at the scene could be connected to her son.

Officers Carlos Baires-Escobar, Shawn Brandt, Timothy Devick, Christopher Humphrey and Nicholas McCarthy were put on standard paid administrative leave after the death, but all have been returned to duty, Palmer said.

According to a report from Amnesty International, 334 people in the United States have died between June 2001 and August 2008 after being shot by police Tasers. The report said Taser shocks have contributed to or caused at least 50 of the deaths.

Several deaths of Twin Cities area residents after being Tasered by police have been attributed, in part, to other causes. In January 2008, Mark Backlund, 29, of Fridley, died after he was involved in an accident and state troopers used a Taser to subdue him. His autopsy concluded that he died due to mixed drug use, including acute cocaine abuse, with police restraint and heart conditions listed as contributing factors.

Lora Pabst • 612-673-4628

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