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Cops Tased a mentally ill man 15 times in the shower. That’s not what killed him, Milwaukee DA says

Body camera video shows the moments before Adam Trammell was Tased by police in the shower.
Body camera video shows the moments before Adam Trammell was Tased by police in the shower. Journal Sentinel

Adam Trammell’s family says he wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t deserve to die, FOX 6 reported last May.

Before his death, Trammell, 22, who suffered from schizophrenia and was bipolar, had just gotten a job and a new place in West Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to his father.

“Living the American Dream, and then that nightmare happened,” Larry Trammell told the news station.

Trammell’s dad was referring to the morning of May 25, when West Milwaukee officers broke down Trammell’s door and Tased him in the shower 15 times, according to authorities. A neighbor had called police because Trammell was naked and rambling in the hallway, and she worried he was having a psychotic break, the Journal Sentinel reported.

When police got to the scene, a downstairs neighbor told them water was leaking through the ceiling from Trammell’s apartment, the newspaper said. Officers didn’t want to wait for someone to bring a key, so they used a ram to break down the door, according to a letter from Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.

Chisholm says an officer opened a shower curtain in the bathroom to find Trammell standing in the shower naked, chugging hot water from a jug. The cop tried to talk to Trammell, but the young man just stared at him, authorities said. When the officer reached out to touch Trammell, he reacted by pushing the cop, Chisholm said.

Authorities say Trammell wouldn’t respond to verbal commands. And the situation seemed to escalate from there. The cop pulled out his Taser and deployed it, striking Trammell in the chest and sending him back into the tub.

But then Trammell began to get up again. Documents detail officers’ repeated attempts to restrain Trammell. Authorities say at some point Trammell tried to take the Taser, an action that was met with more Tasing.

Police Tased Trammell 15 times, according to Chisholm.

By the time paramedics arrived, Trammell was handcuffed on the ground. He had been given sedatives to calm him down, officials said.

On the way to the hospital, he had stopped breathing and had no pulse, the Journal Sentinel reported. He died when he got there.

Medical investigators say Trammell’s body temperature was still registering at 103.6 degrees, more than hour after his death.

The medical examiner ruled the cause of Trammell’s death as excited delirium, a condition that’s been cited as a factor in police force incidents — particularly ones involving Tasers. It’s been described as an agitated state that could make an offender violent and could ultimately be fatal, according to CBS Sacramento. But the condition isn’t recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association, the Journal Sentinel said.

Chisholm said Friday that the officers involved in the incident will not face criminal charges. Although the medical examiner said that the use of sedatives and the Taser use were contributing factors in his death, the DA's office found that there’s no “basis to conclusively link Mr. Trammell's death to actions taken by police officers.”

“To support a finding of criminal culpability in these circumstances, I would have to demonstrate that the officers intentionally or negligently subjected Mr. Trammell to abuse under circumstances that were likely to cause bodily harm,” Chisholm said in his letter. “There is no evidence to support the officers intended to harm Mr. Trammell.”

Body camera footage was released and viewed by Chisholm and Trammell’s family, WISN reported.

"The video is a video of a man being tortured to death," said Robin Shellow, an attorney for Trammell’s family.

The family is planning to file a civil lawsuit, WISN said.

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