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The news stories we read are oftentimes discarded and pushed aside by the 24-hour news cycle. But we refuse to throw these people away. These are real people. Here are their stories.

Natasha McKenna: Tasered 4 times, yet cause of death? 'Delirium'

Natasha McKenna: Tasered 4 times, yet cause of death? 'Delirium'

Natasha McKenna died in Virginia law enforcement custody after being Tased four times in January 2015.

 

Natasha McKenna found herself in a precarious situation: In a jail cell, scared for her life and cowering in the face of Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office jailers dressed in biohazard suits.

"You promised me you wouldn't kill me. I didn't do anything," McKenna said, according to a report released by the Virginia commonwealth’s attorney.

Video footage taken from jail surveillance cameras show deputies trying to hold McKenna on the floor, shouting at her to "stop resisting" and "hold still."

The struggle between deputies and McKenna would last nearly 20 minutes. During the tussle McKenna would be shocked by a Taser four times, 50,000 volts of electricity surging through her body each time. Finally, she loses consciousness. She is stopped cold.

In the video, Sheriff’s office employees and public safety officers gather around her to perform CPR. Miraculously, they are able to revive her, but it would be to no avail: McKenna would close her eyes five days later, never to open them again. She left behind a 7-year-old daughter.

In June 2016, her family filed a $15 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office, claiming that the sheriff's office showed "utter disregard" for McKenna's life while she was in custody, according to WTOP“Natasha did nothing to warrant being tortured and killed by persons sworn to protect the public,” the McKenna family’s attorney Harvey Volzer said in an e-mail to WTOP.

The family is also seeking a jury trial, according to reports.

In the days following her death, an autopsy report would list the official cause of death as an "accident" due to the effects of the stun gun. The Virginia commonwealth attorney vowed to investigate the death and release his own conclusion. Regardless of what any report says, the video of deputies restraining McKenna shows what really happened.

Upon the video’s release to the public, Fairfax County Sheriff Stacy Kincaid expressed  condolences to McKenna’s family and told why releasing the video would aid in showing local and national residents that the county was trying to be transparent.

"There has been so much inaccurate information that was being put out, and it was important that we were able to show exactly both the professionalism and the restraint and the patience that the deputies demonstrated in trying to get Ms. McKenna treatment and back to Alexandria," she said, according to NBC. "That's where she needed to be."

"Natasha McKenna did not die in vain, and there will be something good that comes of this tragedy and that is a better system that's going to be set up in terms of how we treat those with mental illness," Kincaid said.

But why was McKenna restrained in the first place?  And why was her transfer to Alexandria, where she could get the help she so desperately needed, delayed? That’s a question many critics of the sheriff’s office have posed, but have not gotten an answer.

Natasha McKenna did not die in vain, and there will be something good that comes of this tragedy.
— Fairfax County Sheriff Stacy Kinkaid

 

"The prosecutor is telling us on one hand that this woman needed to be restrained and tasered because she was so out of control," Pete Earley, mental health activist and author of the book, "Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness," told NBC. 

"And then on the other hand, we're seeing a tape where she comes out (of her jail cell). She's saying, 'You said you weren't going to hurt me.' She's immediately taken to the floor. There's not one moment where she's in control. There's never one moment where these officer's lives are being threatened," Earley said.

McKenna’s ordeal began in January 26, 2015 when she called 911, but was arrested due to having an outstanding warrant. She would languish in jail for nearly two weeks due to her state of mind. In fact, a medical professional that checked on her in custody told jailers that she was unable to make rational decisions in her condition.

 

In the commonwealth attorney’s report, he made a concerted effort to highlight McKenna’s “well documented history of major mental illness. Her first psychiatric hospitalization occurred when she was 14 years old. In the ensuing years she accrued numerous psychiatric diagnoses including: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.”

 

McKenna’s family was left dumbfounded when the medical examiner concluded that she died of excited delirium, a term that mental health professionals don’t even recognize.

 

 

“Ms. McKenna’s recent combative behavior included biting, scratching, spitting, kicking, and punching,” the report stated, downplaying the deputies’ use of force.

http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/local/report-on-death-of-natasha-mckenna/1735/

 

 

The report said that McKenna, who was  5’4, 181-pounds, displayed  “superhuman strength” when resisting the deputies.

 

Speaking to the Washington Post, Ron Martinelli, a criminologist and former police officer, questioned the use of force for someone who deputies knew full well was not in control of her faculties.

“You need to treat that prisoner like a patient, not a suspect,” Martinelli was quoted as saying. “She is already restrained, why don’t you let her calm down?”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/04/13/the-death-of-natasha-mckenna-in-the-fairfax-jail-the-rest-of-the-story/

 

Also of note is this passage from the Post, which explains the possible state of mind of the deputies on the day they Tasered McKenna:

On Jan. 31, McKenna reportedly placed her mattress in front her door, again blocking the window so deputies could not see inside. When the deputies opened the door to pull the mattress away from the window, “Inmate McKenna was able to get her entire body out of the door and began trying to scratch and bite us,” one deputy wrote. The deputies placed her on the floor but McKenna continued to fight, and so one deputy “struck Inmate McKenna in the face with his open left hand to stop her from trying to bite and scratch him.” When she struggled further, another deputy “delivered a strike to her chest area with the side of his right hand.” She was then placed into a restraint chair.

 

 

 

The commonwealth attorney’s report went on to conclude: “There is no evidence that any of the deputies acted maliciously, sadistically or with the intent to punish or cause harm to Ms. McKenna at any point in the struggle. To the contrary, they did their best, under very difficult circumstances, to restrain, control and prevent Ms. McKenna from injuring herself or others.”

 

 

 

 

NATASHA MCKENNA

Natasha McKenna found herself in a precarious situation: In a jail cell, scared for her life and cowering in the face of Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office jailers dressed in biohazard suits.

"You promised me you wouldn't kill me. I didn't do anything," McKenna said, according to a report released by the commonwealth’s attorney.

Video footage taken from jail surveillance cameras show deputies trying to hold McKenna in a chair, shouting at her to “stop resisting” and “hold still.”

The struggle between deputies and McKenna would last nearly 20 minutes. During the tussle McKenna would be shocked by Taser four times, as 50,000 volts of electricity surges through her body you can see her grimacing until finally, she loses consciousness. She is stopped cold.

Sheriff’s office employees gather around her to perform CPR and were able to revive her, but it would be to no avail: McKenna would close her eyes five days later, never to open them again. She left behind a 7-year-old daughter.

Upon the video’s release to the public, Fairfax County Sheriff Stacy Kincaid expressed  condolences to McKenna’s family and told why releasing the video would aid in showing local and national residents that the county was trying to be transparent.

"There has been so much inaccurate information that was being put out, and it was important that we were able to show exactly both the professionalism and the restraint and the patience that the deputies demonstrated in trying to get Ms. McKenna treatment and back to Alexandria," she said, according to NBC. "That's where she needed to be."

"Natasha McKenna did not die in vain, and there will be something good that comes of this tragedy and that is a better system that's going to be set up in terms of how we treat those with mental illness," Kincaid said.

But why was McKenna restrained in the first place?  And why was her transfer to Alexandria, where she could get the help she so desperately needed, delayed? That’s a question many critics of the sheriff’s office have posed, but have not gotten an answer.

"The prosecutor is telling us on one hand that this woman needed to be restrained and tasered because she was so out of control," Pete Earley, mental health activist and author of the book, "Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness," told NBC. 

"And then on the other hand, we're seeing a tape where she comes out (of her jail cell). She's saying, 'You said you weren't going to hurt me.' She's immediately taken to the floor. There's not one moment where she's in control. There's never one moment where these officer's lives are being threatened," Earley said.

McKenna’s ordeal began in January 26, 2015 when she called 911, but was arrested due to having an outstanding warrant. She would languish in jail for nearly two weeks due to her state of mind. In fact, a medical professional that checked on her in custody told jailers that she was unable to make rational decisions in her condition.

 In the commonwealth attorney’s report, he made a concerted effort to highlight McKenna’s “well documented history of major mental illness. Her first psychiatric hospitalization occurred when she was 14 years old. In the ensuing years she accrued numerous psychiatric diagnoses including: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.”

 McKenna’s family was left dumbfounded when the medical examiner concluded that she died of excited delirium, a term that mental health professionals don’t even recognize.

“Ms. McKenna’s recent combative behavior included biting, scratching, spitting, kicking, and punching,” the report stated, downplaying the deputies’ use of force. 

The report said that McKenna, who was  5’4, 181-pounds, displayed  “superhuman strength” when resisting the deputies.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Ron Martinelli, a criminologist and former police officer, questioned the use of force for someone who deputies knew full well was not in control of her faculties.

“You need to treat that prisoner like a patient, not a suspect,” Martinelli was quoted as saying. “She is already restrained, why don’t you let her calm down?”

Also of note is this passage from the Post, which explains the possible state of mind of the deputies on the day they Tasered McKenna:

On Jan. 31, McKenna reportedly placed her mattress in front her door, again blocking the window so deputies could not see inside. When the deputies opened the door to pull the mattress away from the window, “Inmate McKenna was able to get her entire body out of the door and began trying to scratch and bite us,” one deputy wrote. The deputies placed her on the floor but McKenna continued to fight, and so one deputy “struck Inmate McKenna in the face with his open left hand to stop her from trying to bite and scratch him.” When she struggled further, another deputy “delivered a strike to her chest area with the side of his right hand.” She was then placed into a restraint chair.

 The commonwealth attorney’s report went on to conclude: “There is no evidence that any of the deputies acted maliciously, sadistically or with the intent to punish or cause harm to Ms. McKenna at any point in the struggle. To the contrary, they did their best, under very difficult circumstances, to restrain, control and prevent Ms. McKenna from injuring herself or others.”

  

 

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