FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) — The Virginia Medical Examiner has determined that four shots from a Taser helped cause the death of a mentally ill inmate.
Natasha McKenna died after being restrained and repeatedly shot with a Taser while being transported from the Fairfax County Jail in February.
McKenna, who suffered from schizophrenia, was stunned four times by Fairfax County Sheriff deputies when she fought back. They were attempting to transfer her to another jail. Instead, she went into a coma and later died.
Now, the Virginia’s Medical Examiner finds McKenna’s cause of death to be “excited delirium associated with physical restraint, including the use of conducted energy device.”
But the validity of term “excited delirium” is under debate in medical communities. The ACLU says the cause of death designation seems to only be used when a person, often mentally ill, dies after a struggle with law enforcement.
Sheriff Stacey Kincaid, who runs the jail, has said they were transferring McKenna in order to get the treatment. Commenting on the medical examiner’s finding, Kincaid said that it’s a preliminary report.
On Tuesday, April 28, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to allow the Community Services Board to apply for a state grant for an assessment at the CSB’s new facility in Merrifield.
CSB board member Gary Ambrose attended the supervisor’s meeting and said about the vote, “This is a step in the right direction. Mentally ill people should not be in jail. It’s the worse place possible for them to be.”
The grant of $2.8 million would provide two years worth of staffing and crisis training for police officers to oversee mentally ill people who are in custody, and but could also need treatment here.
CSB Executive Director Tisha Deeghan says in places where assessment centers have been set up, SWAT team incidents drop along with injuries of offices and mentally ill citizens. Plus, she said, they began their recovery sooner.
Both the sheriff and Fairfax Police Chief are supporters of the program and hope the grant request is successful.
The state grant would be $2.8 million for the first two years of the program. Fairfax would likely have to put up the money after that.