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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Karn's death under two investigations

Monday, March 6, 2006

Audio tapes released by the Putnam County 911 Center of radio traffic between police and dispatchers following a pursuit from Clay County on the night of Friday, Feb. 24, reveal an unsettling moment as officers began to realize their suspect was dying.

"(Bradley Karn) is not breathing at this time and he is blue in the face," Cloverdale officer Nick Eastham said as he called for an ambulance.

Emergency medical personnel worked at the scene and at the hospital to save the 25-year-old Brazil man, but were never able to revive him. It is those last few moments of Karn's life, between the time his vehicle finally came to a halt at Cloverdale and the point at which he stopped breathing while face down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back, which have become the focus of two local investigations.

The Indiana State Police plan to lead one investigation, while Putnam County Coroner Thomas Miller said he has called a coroner's inquest into Karn's death.

"We are calling an inquest to investigate the facts and truths surrounding how he died," Miller said. Miller's inquest is in coordination with Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter.

"He has given his full support," the coroner said of the investigation, which will involve subpoenaed interviews of the officers who were present on the scene.

Bookwalter told the (Greencastle) Banner Graphic the necessity for the special inquiry stems from what he described as investigators, not receiving the cooperation which had been expected, from some of the six police agencies involved in the arrest.

"We are not alleging that anyone did anything wrong. It is just important that there is an independent investigation," Bookwalter said of the coroner's further search into the happenings of that night.

"We are assuming everyone will cooperate," Miller said.

If they don't, Indiana law gives coroner the authority to arrest any individuals who do not comply with the subpoena.

Miller expects to begin interviewing witnesses late next week.

"A coroner's inquest is very seldom done," Miller said. "It will be a challenge. Although the inquest gives the coroner arrest powers, it is not considered a criminal investigation. It is merely to discover what was involved in the death."

"The investigation by Indiana State Police will determine from the law enforcement side what went right and what went wrong," Miller said. "The coroner's report is not a criminal investigation, it is just to find the truth and facts related to the death."

Indiana State Police First Sgt. Jeff Hearn said he is investigating the incident "at the request of the Clay County Sheriff himself." Hearn addressed potential conflict from State Police investigating the arrest where their ISP officers were involved.

"If another agency requests we do an investigation, we generally do it," he said. "And in this case, the State Police involved were in an assisting role, while the pursuit was initiated by the Clay County Sheriff's Department."

Hearn said his investigation will also involve recorded interviews with "all participants involved."

The results of the search will be given to the prosecutor when a report is completed, he said.

Meanwhile, Bookwalter emphasized the need to have an investigation performed by someone not related to any of the involved police agencies.

"We need an investigation above reproach," he said. Miller added, "I want to find the truth. Its just that simple."

Preliminary autopsy results show Karn had tested positive for methamphetamine, marijuana and alcohol use, on the night of his death. It also described the cause of death as consistent with Excited Delirium Syndrome, a medical occurrence where death follows a combination of circumstances such as drug use and extreme distress combined with restraint, such as being handcuffed.

At 10:50 p.m. that night, Karn fled Brazil police following a traffic stop. His flight took him south on S.R. 59 and then east on I-70 into Putnam County. The chase ended at the eastbound 41-mile marker after two sets of stop sticks were used to deflate the tires of his Oldsmobile and Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton used a police bumping maneuver to push the vehicle off the roadway.

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