ATLANTA – A shock from a deputy's Taser was not what killed a Norcross man who was stunned with the device in July, a Gwinnett County official said Monday.
Carlos Rodriguez Escamilla, 27, died of what authorities call "excited delirium," said Ted Bailey, investigator for the county medical examiner's office.
Bailey said Escamilla's condition was caused by "acute cocaine and ethanol use."
Chief medical examiner Dr. Carol Terry said excited delirium is "an overdose of adrenaline, where the body gets so revved up that ultimately the heart goes into an abnormal rhythm and stops."
Terry said Escamilla had no pre-existing diseases, including heart problems, and his body had "no significant trauma" or life-threatening injuries. She said his body showed only one "demonstrable Taser burn" — on his arm, "a good distance from the heart."
U.S. medical examiners increasingly have blamed excited delirium resulting from drug use or psychiatric problems as a cause of death when people have died in police custody. Some civil rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, question whether the condition really exists.
Escamilla died July 25 after fighting with two Gwinnett County deputies at an apartment complex. The deputies had gone there to handle an unrelated eviction when they saw Escamilla, who was heavily intoxicated. The Taser was used because he allegedly was combative toward the deputies, authorities said.
Sheriff Butch Conway said in July the deputies did the right thing by using the Taser in that situation but the deputies — John Irvine and Nicholas Higgins — were placed on standard paid administrative leave during the investigation.
Sheriff's officials did not immediately return a phone message Monday asking whether the deputies have remained on leave since the medical examiner's ruling.
Rodriguez was the third person to die after being shocked by a Gwinnett County deputy's Taser. Ray Charles Austin died after being shocked in 2003 at Gwinnett County Jail and Frederick Jerome Williams died in 2004 after being shocked at the jail.
Earlier this year, county officials agreed to pay Austin's family $100,000 to dismiss a lawsuit over his death during a 2003 scuffle with deputies. A lawsuit is still pending in Williams' death.