Gilbert police Chief Tim Dorn said it was unfortunate an 18-year-old man died 11 hours after being shocked by a police Taser, but the officers involved followed proper procedure.
“The appropriate levels of force were used by Gilbert Police Department personnel in accordance with law and GPD General Orders,” Dorn wrote in a memo at the end of July.
That memo was included in a report on an administrative investigation into the death released Friday.
The report also included an excerpt from a July 27 letter from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which has a review board that goes over shooting and Taser cases, stating no criminal charges are warranted in this case.
On Jan. 17, Gilbert police were investigating a robbery in the 1000 block of East Cullumber Street after Andrew Athetis of Gilbert hit a woman in the chest and took her keys, according to a police report.
Police found Athetis, who had a recent history of heroin and amphetamine use, in a fountain at 121 N. Sandstone St. He started walking toward another officer but wouldn’t stop. Officer Jeff Rhees fired the Taser, striking Athetis who landed with his arms under him. The officer activated the weapon four times within 33 seconds when Athetis wouldn’t stay on the ground.
According to the administrative report, Rhees deployed his Taser because he believed his OC spray, similar to pepper spray, wouldn’t be effective against Athetis.
Police called for an ambulance 11 minutes after officers arrived on scene. Seven minutes after medical personnel got there Athetis was not breathing, according to the report. He was eventually transported to Mercy Gilbert Medical Center where he died the following morning.
A Maricopa County medical examiner’s report stated Athetis died from excited delirium associated with acute methamphetamine toxicity. Excited delirium is brought on by stimulant drug use and often leads to people exhibiting a spike in adrenaline, bizarre behavior and heart failure.
Dorn wrote that officers will continue to be trained in decision making, Taser operation and excited delirium.
Athetis’ parents have filed paperwork with Gilbert demanding they be paid $2 million or they will file a lawsuit.
They claim police used excessive force, unnecessarily used the Taser on a mentally impaired person, failed to monitor his medical condition and failed to recognize that he was suffering from excited delirium.
Some witnesses reported to police that they saw officers slam Athetis’ head on the ground, the administrative report states. Police on scene denied slamming his head on the ground.
Police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Duncan said the report stands on its on and the police department declines further interviews on the matter.