Last updated: 3 months ago
Police had been called out to Delafield's home 28 times previously. They were well aware of her multiple physical and mental health issues: obese, wheelchair-bound, on oxygen, on medication for paranoid schizophrenia, with an enlarged heart, and both frail and combative. Despite consulting with her family in a sympathetic way, police discharged their Tasers on her 10 times for a combined total of 121 seconds. This killed her.
Emily Marie Delafield, 56, was in poor physical and mental health but would not have died if she had not been shocked for a total of 121 seconds by two Green Cove Springs officers, according to the autopsy included in a State Attorney's Office report released Friday. Delafield called police to her house then confronted them with knives and a hammer.
Associate Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, who performed the autopsy in Jacksonville last year, said the Taser shocks were a "very small factor" in the death of Delafield, who was obese and had an enlarged heart and was confined to a wheelchair. But the Tasers were a contributing factor, she said.
"You can't ignore it," Rao said Monday.
In July, Rao listed homicide as the manner of death, according to the State Attorney's report. She described Delafield as a woman who was on a "precipice" health-wise and said Taser shocks could have impacted Delafield's breathing.
But the State Attorney's Office report said officers James Acres and Barbara Luedtke were justified in using the Tasers on Delafield after she threatened the officers in the street in front of her home on Harrison Street.
Though the report said the two officers were using what are considered non-lethal weapons in the face of knives and a hammer, the actions raise questions about whether the reaction was proper considering Delafield's physical condition, said a nephew, Ryan Delafield.
"She was a dead woman walking," he said Monday. "There was no way she was going to survive that."
On the day after the incident, Emily Delafield's brother, Arnett Chase, said he and other family members believed police acted properly and it was the least-dangerous way to stop her from hurting herself or others.
Until last week, Ryan Delafield said, he believed his aunt had been shocked about three times and is baffled at the police handling of the case. He said his aunt had a limited range of motion, was restricted to a motorized wheelchair and that police should have used other means to calm her.
"There are some questions," he said. "Why is the Taser used at all? The second question, 'Why so much?' "
Tasers deliver 50,000-volt jolts at low currents - generally considered safe but enough to disrupt the nervous system and disable a person temporarily.
Police knew Emily Delafield and had been at her house 28 times in the past, according to the state attorney's report. They knew of her mental health issues and had talked that day with family members who were concerned that she was not taking her medication for schizophrenia. Emily Delafield called police to say she believed her life was in danger and that her sister was trying to kill her, an accusation that was later ruled unsubstantiated, the report said.
Luedtke and Acres arrived at the house and decided not to use police batons or pepper spray on Delafield, who was on oxygen due to her medical condition. The officers discussed using Tasers with the family, including some who agreed with their use, authorities said. After a 13-minute standoff, Luedtke fired her Taser when Delafield raised the knife as if to throw it. When the shock did not appear to have an effect, Luedtke told investigators she recycled her Taser up to four times. Acres shocked Delafield two minutes later after Luedtke's shocks appeared not to be having an effect.
Later examination of the two weapons shows Luedtke's Taser was fired nine times and Acres' once for a total of 121 seconds.
Delafield collapsed several minutes after being shocked and died after she was taken to Orange Park Medical Center.
Ryan Delafield, who was not there when his aunt was shocked, said he questions why police supervisors were not called or why other tactics were not used. The police station is about three minutes from his aunt's house, he said. Delafield, who was teaching high school in Georgia at the time, said he talked to his aunt and his mother less than three hours before police were called to the house.
"They both answered me, 'Everything was OK,' " he said.
Delafield, 35, who is the executor of his aunt's estate, said he became frustrated after waiting three months for a death certificate and has hired Jacksonville attorney Rick Alexander to investigate the case. Alexander said no suit has been filed and that his office is beginning an investigation.
In a similar finding released Friday, the State Attorney's Office said the death of John David Johnson III, who died Sept. 30 after he was tased by Clay County Deputy Chris Faircloth, was an accident.
Johnson, 27, was acting irrationally in the street of a South Hampton subdivision off College Avenue when Faircloth was called. Johnson started striking Faircloth in the face and was shot by a Taser. Johnson was taken to Orange Park Medical Center, where he died about an hour later.