PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The mother of a southern Oregon man who died during an incident with law enforcement officers has sued the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, saying deputies used excessive force.
The federal lawsuit filed in Eugene on behalf of Ann McKelvey, who represents the estate, says deputies discharged Tasers at least a half dozen times when trying to stop Walter Ray McKelvey, 26, from running into traffic on March 3, 2013, including after he was restrained and told deputies his heart hurt.
McKelvey’s attorney, J. Randolph Pickett, declined comment Wednesday. The sheriff’s office did not immediately return a phone message.
According to the complaint and prior news accounts, the incident began when Walter McKelvey called police for help from Ray’s Food Place on Main Street in Canyonville, which is 200 miles south of Portland. McKelvey had many prior run-ins with authorities and was released from jail just a few days before.
When Deputy Sam Clayton responded, McKelvey told him he didn’t call the sheriff’s office. Instead, he asked Clayton for a ride to the local casino.
The deputy denied the request and tried to leave. McKelvey, however, flagged him down, saying he we being harassed by people. The deputy saw no one harassing McKelvey.
Another deputy, Jayson Forte, arrived. As Forte conferred with Clayton, McKelvey went to the edge of the road and tried to hitch a ride to the casino.
The deputies went to the street to speak with McKelvey, who told them he had used methamphetamine earlier in the evening.
Forte tried to pull McKelvey away from the street, but he broke away and went into traffic, leading the deputies to fire their stun guns.
McKelvey fell to the ground, and the deputies got on top of him. The complaint says deputies continued firing their Tasers, even after McKelvey yelled for help.
“Several witnesses were at the scene and also reported that McKelvey was crying out for help,” the lawsuit says. “Some witnesses even begged the deputies to stop discharging their Tasers.” The lawsuit does not identify these witnesses.
McKelvey stopped breathing at the scene. An autopsy found that meth intoxication, a brain cyst and excited delirium — a condition in which the heart races during a period of stress, often after drug use — caused McKelvey’s death.
The lawsuit says the deputies should have known not to use a Taser on someone who had taken meth.
A grand jury ruled in 2013 that the force used against McKelvey was legally justified.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money for the beneficiaries of McKelvey’s estate, including his parents, two daughters and a son.
Besides the sheriff’s office, the lawsuit names the deputies and Taser International Inc. as defendants.
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