Community leaders question autopsy onTyrone Smith; accused Twin Rivers cop shooter

8:39 PM, Nov 30, 2011   |    comments
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DO NOT USE Tyrone Smith

SACRAMENTO, CA - On Wednesday, the Sacramento County Coroner's Office released the official cause of death for Tyrone Smith who died in custody after shooting a Twin Rivers police officer in October.

According to the coroner's report, the official cause of death was listed as undetermined, stating Smith's death was a direct result of a combination of factors including his physical exertion at the time of arrest and his pre-existing medical conditions. 

The report listed numerous significant conditions contributing to cause of death, including: "asthmatic bronchitis, truncal obesity, hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease , unspecified psychiatric illness and marijuana intoxication."

Authorities said Smith fled with police in pursuit after he shot the police officer.  The coroner said, at 5'9" and 240 pounds Smith "was not physically fit (to engage) in a five minute foot pursuit that involved hopping several fences."

The chase "could have triggered his reactive airway disease further compromising his ability to breathe and recover."

The coroner viewed video that showed Smith was "alive and well following the foot pursuit and first few minutes of his arrest." 

But the coroner said as Smith was being taken to the Sacramento police cruiser he fell and reportedly "stated 'I can't breath.'" Then he began mumbling incoherently.

The coroner said Smith was put in one cruiser that didn't have a video camera and then "immediately" transferred to a second cruiser where he appeared "passive while being placed in the second (car), possibly indicating a los of consciousness."

According to the coroner the incoherent mumbling when Smith fell could have been the result of "narcosis from the build up of carbon dioxide in his system."  His confusion "may have been interpreted by the officers as resisting arrest and ultimately led to coma unless oxygen is applied."

The coroner said placing a large man with Smith's large abdominal girth in the car "prone in the back seat of a patrol car only compromised his recovery."

Smith's family members declined comment on the report.  But Greg Jefferson of the Del Paso Heights Community Association said he believed the way Sacramento police but Smith in the car was wrong.

"He couldn't move to adjust his breathing. There was no way he could move to adjust his airway," Jefferson declared. "I believe he died from position asphyxia."

Jefferson said he's researched the way other police departments transport suspects.

"Medical and police manuals across the nation say don't transport a person in that position," Jefferson said. "When questioned about this subject I recall the Sacramento Police Department saying it was up to the officer's discretion."

Jefferson admitted there was no way for officers to know Smith's underlying medical issues but "to disregard known information about that position and transfer a person that way anyway, would make the police department partially liable."

The coroner stated that she found no evidence that positional asphyxia killed Smith.

The Sacramento Police Department also made no comment about the coroner's report but officials said the department's investigation about Smith's death is ongoing.

News 10 Karen Massie contributed to this report


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