Man dies after Swissvale police use Taser
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A man died after Swissvale police subdued him with a Taser last night.
Allegheny County police said today they are investigating the incident, which occurred just before midnight on Hawthorne Avenue.
The deceased, Andre Thomas, was positively identified this morning by his parents, Dennis L. and Donna Thomas of Monroeville.
The father said authorities have not explained any details surrounding his son's death.
"I want to know what happened, what was the particular incident that caused my son's death," Dennis Thomas said.
Swissvale officers responded to calls for a man acting erratically and trying to enter houses.
One resident on that block said Andre Thomas had knocked on some doors, yelling that someone was trying to shoot him. Police have not confirmed that account.
Swissvale officers encountered Mr. Thomas, 37, in front of a residence in the 2200 block, county investigators said.
James Morton, assistant superintendent of county police, said today that Mr. Thomas refused to comply with the policemen's orders to submit to them. An officer used a Taser to subdue him.
A neighbor said she saw Mr. Thomas standing with the prongs of the Taser still attached to him when four Swissvale officers forced him to the ground and handcuffed him.
"I saw them shove [Mr. Thomas] to the ground, and they handcuffed him," the neighbor said. "They killed that man. They killed him. They killed him," she added, her hands trembling. The woman said she saw one officer stomp on Mr. Thomas's upper back, holding his foot there while the subject lay on the sidewalk with his head hanging over the curb. Another officer "reared back and punched him in the head with all his might," she said.
Mr. Thomas vomited. Then, for several minutes, he lay motionless, another nearby resident said, before an ambulance was called. The rescue truck stayed on the scene for several minutes more before Mr. Thomas was taken away, the witness said.
Supt. Morton said medics treated Mr. Thomas inside the ambulance at the scene before proceeding to UPMC Braddock.
Mr. Thomas was pronounced dead at the hospital at 12:46 a.m.
The cause of death is pending an autopsy.
First Published August 5, 2008 11:41 am