ALBANY, ore. – Albany officers were not to blame in the death of a man who was tased in October, Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny ruled.
Officer Gerry Morris initially stopped to help James Plymell III after his car was found to be obstructing traffic on Oct. 23, but the situation quickly grew tense. The man reportedly struggled with multiple officers, who used their Tasers on him to no avail. Plymell then died.
According to Marteeny, there was no use of deadly force in the altercation.
“I find the use of force reasonable in light of Plymell’s refusal to heed orders, his aggressive actions toward officers…and his sustained resistance to their attempts to arrest him,” Marteeny said.
Marteeny added the Tasers were not what caused the man’s death, which was largely due to the strain drugs had placed on his heart. It was not able to handle the physical exertion of the struggle that ensued.
Oregon’s Chief Medical Examiner Sean Hurst said the cause of death was “cardiac complications of acute methamphetamine toxicity.” Marteeny said Plymell was known to use meth, marijuana and alcohol, and at the time of his death, he had meth, amphetamine, mitragynine (kratom) and cannabinoids in his system.
“The autopsy revealed that Mr. Plymell’s heart was grossly abnormal and he suffered from significant cardiac disease,” the report said.
In the time leading up to his death, Marteeny said Morris stopped to help Plymell push his car out of traffic, but Plymell stopped helping and started exhibiting strange behavior. Morris requested non-emergency help.
Then, Plymell grew even more animated. Morris asked Plymell to step up to the curb away from traffic, but Plymell stayed in his car. The report said Plymell reached into areas of the car where the officer couldn’t see his hands and refused to get out of the car or keep his hands visible. The officer then asked for emergency backup.
Officer Emily Schroff arrived on scene, and Plymell continued to disobey orders. Schroff told Plymell he was under arrest and attempted to get him out of the car, but Plymell resisted. Then, Schroff tried to use her Taser on the man. Plymell and Schroff struggled over the Taser until Schroff managed to put it back in her holster.
In the ensuing physical struggle, Morris obtained injuries to his nose.
The third officer, Gina Bell, arrived on scene and also tried using her Taser. While it was briefly effective – allowing officers to pull the man out of the car and onto the ground – Plymell continued to resist. Bell, like Schroff, put the Taser away and helped the other officers in their attempts to get control of Plymell.
Officer Thomas Roten was the fourth on scene and he assisted the officers already on scene.
Plymell eventually stopped resisting and officers noticed he was having medical issues. They attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation and an automated external defibrillator was used before emergency medical response could arrive. However, Plymell was declared dead.
Marteeny’s report indicates that it didn’t appear a solid and sustained connection was made in any of the Taser use. Only one circular abrasion was found in the post-mortem examination.
Hurst noted that if the Tasers had been responsible for the death, Plymell would have died soon after the device was deployed, but Plymell continued to struggle for about two minutes after the last time a Taser was used in the altercation.
The officers involved may now return to work, Marteeny said. They have been on administrative leave since Plymell’s death.