Natasha McKenna died naked. And handcuffed. And leg-shackled with a piece of plastic over her face preventing her from seeing, spitting and breathing.
She was tased four times while restrained in a restraint chair by a team of Virginia deputies and corrections officers, five of them dressed in hazmat suits, wearing gas masks, telling her, “we are your friends.”
The official cause of death was “excited delirium associated with physical restraint including use of conductive energy device.”
Basically her heart was not strong enough to withstand the overbearing and overpowering abuse from the Fairfax County sheriff’s deputies that began immediately after they opened her cell and pulled her out.
“You promised me you wouldn’t kill me. I didn’t do anything,” she said that fateful day on February 3.
Then they pounced on her, forcing their shield down on her naked body, piling on top of her in the name of officer safety, leaving her gasping for air.
“Stop resisting,” they repeatedly yelled through indistinguishable gas masks.
Within 30 minutes, they were carrying her off in a gurney. She was pronounced dead five days later. But that is only because they resuscitated her after an hour of CPR after killing her the first time around.
On Tuesday, her death was ruled a “tragic accident” by Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, who provided a 51-page explanation as to why he will not be charging any of the deputies involved.
He said the 5’3″ inch woman – initially said to weigh 130 pounds, now listed at 180 pounds – possessed “superhuman” strength who gave the corrections officers the fight of their lives.
But that turns out to be an exaggeration as we can see in the video released Thursday, which shows the 37-year-old mentally ill woman struggling to survive an almost 30-minute ordeal.
Even before the video was released, the Washington Post’s editorial board was questioning why an unarmed hospital staff had been able to restrain Mckenna the prior month when she was reportedly even more combative.
Mr. Morrogh’s 51-page report is a sympathetic account of the incident, but nearly all the sympathy is reserved for the six male sheriff’s deputies assigned to the Sheriff Emergency Response Team that dealt with Ms. McKenna — a kind of SWAT team used to extract difficult inmates from jail cells.
He concludes that the team acted reasonably and in accord with its training, but at no point does he ask whether the deputies’ training was appropriate — whether, for instance, any of the six had received crisis intervention training in dealing with inmates suffering from mental illness.
Nor does Mr. Morrogh ask how it was possible that unarmed hospital security staff at Mount Vernon Hospital, where Ms. McKenna had been treated shortly before landing in the jail, had managed to restrain Ms. McKenna when she became combative and violent on Jan. 21 — without resorting to the extreme violence to which she was subjected in the incident at the jail.
In that earlier episode, after Ms. McKenna fought with hospital staff — kicking, biting, scratching, spitting and urinating — the report says that nurses were forced to summon hospital security. At that point, the report says, “Security staff arrived and strapped Ms. McKenna to a ‘transfer board’ and placed her in a ‘quiet room.’ ”
Yet when Ms. McKenna — described by sheriff’s deputies as possessing “superhuman strength,” according to the report, despite the fact that she was about 5 feet 4 inches — became similarly agitated at the hands of sheriff’s deputies just two weeks later, they manhandled her over the course of 20 minutes before shooting her four times with a stun gun.
Is it possible that hospital staff had the training that the jail guards apparently lacked?
Is it possible the hospital staff had training the jail guards lacked?
Considering hospital employees, for the most part, are trained to save lives, while law enforcement officers, at all costs, are trained to protect their own lives, the answer to that question is obvious.
The real question is, when are we going to do something to change that?
Below are two videos; the 48-minute clip released by the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, and a much shorter one where we put it into perspective.