Autopsy released for man who died after police altercation - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Autopsy released for man who died after police altercation

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BULLHEAD CITY, AZ (CBS5) -
The autopsy has been released for a man who died last July after an encounter with the Phoenix Police Department.
 
Michael Angel Ruiz, 44, died after being detained by Phoenix police officers, who were trying to get the 44-year-old to come down from a roof at an apartment complex near 23rd Avenue and Indian School Road on July 28, 2013.
 
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office said the autopsy showed methamphetamine, amphetamine, citalopram, valproic acid and laudanosine in his system.
 
The cause of death was ruled an "anoxic brain injury in the setting of methamphetamine intoxication and altercation with police."
 
The manner of Ruiz's death was undetermined.

"The decedent's anoxic brain injury, while being the final cause of death, resulted from an episode of resuscitated cardiac arrest that can, itself, be the result of many factors. Methamphetamine use can produce cardiac arrhythmias and subsequent anoxic brain injury without other intervening factors; therefore, its role in the decedent's death cannot be excluded. Conversely, the roles of various actions and injuries, which occurred during the altercation with police (including, but not limited to, attempted carotid hold placement and conducted electrical weapon deployment) can potentially contribute to anoxic brain injury or exacerbate underlying conditions that could result in anoxic brain injury, so they cannot be excluded in being contributory to the decedent's death. As none of these factors can be included or excluded with certainty as contributing to the decedent's death, the manner of death is categorized as 'undetermined'."

The attorney for Ruiz's family said he didn't have to die that day.

"Officers aren't being trained on how to address these situations properly," said attorney Jocquese Blackwell. "If they were, Michael would still be alive."

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office said they try and complete death investigations within 90 days, but they only have nine medical examiners to review 385 cases each this year.
 
CBS 5 News spoke with Ruiz's family after his death. 
 
"I want justice for my son and I don't want any other parent or any other person to go through this," Ruiz's mother Yolanda Erickson said.

And though she knew Ruiz battled addiction, she never expected to get the call that her son was in the hospital.

"At 12 o'clock I took my son off life support and he died in my arms 20 minutes later," Erickson said.

On July 28, when police arrived to get Ruiz down from the roof of his apartment, they deployed their stun guns several times.

Video from witnesses at the scene shows police using the choke-hold technique and carrying Ruiz down a flight of stairs without supporting his head.

According to police reports, Ruiz had to be resuscitated at the scene.

"I was shocked, I had never seen anything like it," said Richard Erickson, Ruiz's stepfather. He served on the Los Angeles Police Department as a detective and said he believes Phoenix police need to review their policies.

"They tased him and he's right on the edge of the roof and he could've hurt himself bad," Richard Erickson said.

"We believe the chokehold should not be used at all, and we believe an individual should not be tased on the roof," Blackwell said.
 
"His nickname for me was 'bugaloo,' so that's how he would make me laugh even when I was mad," said Yolanda Erickson. She said she wishes she could again hear the voice of her son.

"I miss his phone calls, he used to call me all the time," Yolanda Erickson said.
 
The Phoenix Police Department said they are precluded from commenting at this time.

The family has sent the city a notice of claim.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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