A 22-year old Elkhart man died while in police custody in January and police tasers contributed to the death.
That was the conclusion of an investigation conducted by the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office that found no wrongdoing on the part of police officers.
22-year old Delano Smith apparently suffered from schizophrenia and manic depression. Mug shots from previous arrests show him dressed as both a man and a woman.
Elkhart City Police were called to Smith’s apartment on January 6th of this year by neighbors who heard screaming and other loud noises.
Once there, officers observed some very bizarre behavior. Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill said that Smith had a large wound on his arm and that Smith was biting the wound with his teeth. The investigation further alleges that Smith was dousing his head in a kitchen sink full of water and what appeared to be blood.
Finally, some appliances near the sink appeared to be damaged with exposed electrical wiring. Smith wrapped his mouth around the exposed wires, despite the officer’s requests to stop.
“While it’s very unfortunate that this apparently troubled young man is dead, and while the actions of the officers may have inadvertently contributed to his death,” said Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill, “The actions taken by police officers to subdue Mr. Smith were reasonable, appropriate, and necessary to prevent his further harm.
Smith was shot by police tasers a total of three times. One shot may have lasted as long as 20-seconds, while another seems to have malfunctioned and produced no shock at all.
An autopsy concluded that the confrontation with police and the restraint that officers used were contributing factors in Smith’s death.
“This was certainly a circumstance that we wanted to take a look at because we have an individual who died while in police custody and following a confrontation with police where the police had engaged in the use of force, albeit one that is clearly intended to be non lethal,” said Prosecutor Hill.
The investigation reveals that the primary cause of Smith’s death was “excited delirium (acute exhaustive mania).”
“In laymen’s terms it would suggest a level of excitement that would cause ordinary body functions to be adjusted, especially with regard to the brain that could apparently disrupt other normal functions,” said Hill.
Hill admitted that the cause of death is unique in this area, and somewhat controversial nationwide.
Excited delirium is not recognized in the so called D.S.M., the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Police were called to Smith’s apartment at 123 W. Hively Avenue at 7:19 a.m.
Smith was pronounced dead at the hospital at 8:10 a.m.
Four officers were on the scene that day, Cpl. Norm Friend, Officer Bruce Anglemyer, Sgt. James Buchmann, and Officer Michael Price.