The death of a black man shot multiple times by Coconut Creek police firing Taser stun guns has been ruled a homicide by the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office.
“It is our understanding that there has been a finding that the cause of death was electrocution, which is consistent with having been over-Tased,” said Jack Scarola, a West Palm Beach attorney who represents the family of Calvon “Andre” Reid.
The medical examiner’s office released its findings to Broward prosecutors last week. Its results were first reported by FloridaBulldog.org.
Reid, a 39-year-old meat salesman, died Feb. 24 – two days after being Tasered in a parking lot in the largely white Wynmoor retirement community. His death has been shrouded in secrecy by local authorities amid ongoing national controversy over police, race and the use of deadly force following police-related deaths of black men in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and Baltimore.
Coconut Creek police did not disclose the shooting or the death until after FloridaBulldog.org published the eyewitness accounts on Feb. 27.
John Arendale and his wife, Bonnie Eshleman, live in a ground-floor apartment steps away from the scene of the confrontation and watched what happened through their windows. They told a reporter that as many as four police officers fired four Taser shots in two volleys. Between volleys, about five police officers “were around and on top of the man” who cried out, “Baby! They are going to kill me!” and “I can’t breathe!
Among other things, Arendale said he watched as police rolled Reid over on the ground following the second volley and he could see Taser wires still attached to Reid’s chest.
Detectives didn’t interview Arendale and Eshleman until hours after their account was published. Six days later, in response to a chorus of follow-up media reports, then-police Chief Michael Mann held a news conference at which he read a prepared statement that provided limited information.
Mann said that Margate Fire Department paramedics first responded to the gated community in answer to a 911 call. He said they found Reid in the well-lit parking lot shortly after 1 a.m. in an “agitated and combative and incoherent state” suffering from “numerous cuts on his hands, arms and chest and this clothing was torn and bloodstained.” He did not say why Reid was at the location.
The paramedics summoned police, but Mann said Reid was so agitated that officers didn’t know if they were dealing with a victim, suspect or irrational person. Mann said that when Reid refused to comply with orders to stop resisting, “Taser use became necessary for the officers’ safety as well as for Mr. Reid’s own safety,” he said.
Reid died two days later at Northwest Regional Medical Center.
Mann declined to provide further details, but told reporters “there was no cover-up” of what happened by his department. His boss, City Manager Mary Blasi, forced him out as chief less than a week later.
The new acting chief is Gregory B. Lees, who has declined to comment.
FloridaBulldog.org reported that Coconut Creek detectives returned to the scene weeks later and re-questioned Arendale and Eshleman. They took photographs through the windows the pair used to observe what happened and did what Arendale called “a kind of mini-reenactment.”
At one point, Detective Frank Fuentes asked Arendale if he saw Taser shots being fired at Reid.
“John said ‘yes’ and the detective said, ‘You didn’t say that before.’ But John said that all along,” Eshleman said in an interview.
Law enforcement sources, including Ken Harms, former Miami police chief and a police policy expert, said the re-interview of the witnesses was an apparent attempt to discredit their testimony.
Four city officers have been under investigation: Sgts. David Freeman and Darren Karp and Officers Thomas Eisenring and Daniel Rush. Freeman, Karp and Eisenring are white. Rush is African-American.
The Broward State Attorney’s Office is also investigating for likely presentation to the grand jury – standard procedure for Broward State Attorney Mike Satz’s office. Assistant State Attorney Deborah Zimet questioned Arendale and Eshleman under oath last week. The office has not commented publicly.
The indictment of police officers in Broward would be highly unusual. More than a generation has passed since 1980, the last time a Broward grand jury charged an officer as a result of a police shooting.
Still, the family of Calvon Reid hopes the grand jury considers the case soon.
“This case is a wound festering in the darkness,” said attorney Scarola. “The sooner the facts are exposed to sunlight, the faster the community can ultimately begin to heal.”
Florida Bulldog is a not-for-profit news organization created to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. Contributions are tax-deductible. www.floridabulldog.org