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Police not at fault in Karn's death, says coroner

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Excited Delirium Syndrome and Positional/Compression Asphyxia have been determined to be the final causes of death for a man who died in police custody at Cloverdale in February.

After reviewing 20 interviews conducted with officers who were on the scene late night on Feb. 25, when Bradley Karn, 25, of Brazil, died after resisting arrest, Putnam County Coroner Thomas Miller has said no officers were at fault for the death.

Rather, he told the BannerGraphic, it was the amount of illegal drugs in Karn's system as well as his weight which may have contributed to the combined conditions that occurred when he died.

Miller said the level of Karn's methamphetamine use that evening led to his development of Excited Delirium Syndrome.

He cited an article by psychologist Michael G. Conner which describes the condition as being a delirium, "a severe disturbance in the level of consciousness and a change in mental status over a relatively short period of time" which manifests itself in acute behavioral disturbances.

According to the article, "an individual can appear normal until they are questioned, challenged or confronted."

Meth was a huge factor in Karn's death, Miller said.

At 10:50 p.m. on the night of his death, Karn fled Brazil police following a traffic stop. Officers from Brazil, Clay County, Putnam County, Greencastle, Cloverdale and the Indiana State Police joined in the chase which ended at the eastbound 41-mile marker of I-70.

Miller said Karn's obesity combined with the methamphetamine use and the police chase had already raised the man's heart rate and caused him to burn oxygen.

"Then, when he chose to resist and fight police, he used more oxygen," Miller said. "The adrenalin and methamphetimine combined to give Karn abnormally intense strength."

Pinned down by police, Karn went into an oxygen deficit.

"One thing compounds another, which led to his death," he said.

Miller explained the other contributing factor in the Karn's case was the Positional/Compression Asphyxia.

He said the positional aspect of it means that the person was in a position that inhibits their persons ability to breathe, that affects the mechanics of their breathing.

In this case, as Karn's 20-minute flight from police came to a conclusion at Cloverdale, he was removed from the car and pulled out on his abdomen, face down.

A police car had blocked the opening of this driver's side door, requiring officers to bring Karn out of the passenger side of his vehicle and into a ditch on the side of the ramp.

When that happened, his head was lower than his feet, the coroner explained.

The compression came as police held him down in the process of their struggle to restrain him, he said.

Miller added, both the positioning and the compression asphyxia were further aggravated by Karn's physical stature, which Miller described as morbidly obese.

"He was about 350 pounds, and most of that was in the belly," Miller said. "When his head was down, the weight was pushing into his lungs and diaphragm."

Miller said his final report will be handed over to the Putnam County Prosecutor by mid-week.

"My determination is, the use of force was necessary and reasonable by all law enforcement involved," he said. "It was Karn's decision to flee and to resist arrest, which led to what was required of the police."



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