Tuesday, 16 April 2024

REGIONAL: District attorney finds no fault with officers in fatal Taser case

UKIAH – A report released Monday found that two peace officers who used Tasers on a man who later died last October used justifiable force.


Mendocino County District Attorney Meredith Lintott said Monday that her office completed its investigation into the Oct. 12, 2009, death of Christopher Belknap, who died after a violent unprovoked attack against a Mendocino County Sheriff’s sergeant.


Lintott determined that the use of Tasers by a Mendocino County Sheriff’s sergeant and a Ukiah Police Department sergeant was a legally justifiable use of force against Belknap.


On Oct. 12, 2009, at approximately 8:30 p.m., a Mendocino County Sheriff’s sergeant was parked in the parking lot of 740 South State St., Ukiah, when he observed Belknap – a parolee released from prison the prior week – waving his arms in an agitated manner, according to the report.


Belknap approached the sergeant, who got out of his patrol vehicle and was immediately attacked without provocation, Lintott reported.


After being physically struck by Belknap several times, the sergeant deployed his Taser, striking Belknap in an attempt to subdue him. The report said Belknap continued the assault on the sergeant as backup officers arrived on scene.


A Ukiah Police sergeant observed Belknap attacking the sheriff’s sergeant and deployed his Taser in an attempt to stop the assault. Lintott's report said Belknap was then restrained in handcuffs and placed onto the ground.


Shortly afterwards Belknap lost consciousness and became unresponsive, officials reported. Medical personnel were called to the scene and Belknap was transported to Ukiah Valley Medical Center. Life saving efforts was administered and Belknap died a short time later.


A forensic autopsy determined that the cause of death was “sudden death” due to “excited delirium” with a contributing factor being “methamphetamine toxicity and bullous emphysema.”


In addition, a forensic toxicologist found a high level of methamphetamine in Belknap’s blood and determined that this high level can result in violent and irrational behavior. The Mendocino County Coroner ruled the death as accidental.


The investigation was conducted by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigations at the request of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and the Ukiah Police Department per the countywide protocol, Lintott reported.


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