Shirley Ann South, 41

Dallas, Texas
March 09, 2009

Agencies: Texas Department of Criminal Justice | Texas Attorney General's Office | Texas Department of Public Safety | Texas Commission on Jail Standards | Texas Jail Project | Dallas Police Department Special Investigations Unit SIU Texas

Cause of death: Choking

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Last updated: over 3 years ago


On March 9, 2009, at 8:25 A.M., Dallas Police Officer Hans Bryson, #3075 and Police Officer Ken King, #9029 were on duty and dressed in complete Dallas Police uniforms and driving a marked squad car when they were dispatched on a disturbance call at 7700 Bonnieview Road. When the officers arrived at the scene, they found Shirley South was being physically held by a witness to a burglary of a vehicle offense that Ms. South had just been involved in. Officer King handcuffed Ms. South and called an ambulance for her after checking her vital signs. A Dallas Fire Rescue Ambulance responded to the scene. Officers Bryson and King determined that a few minutes earlier, Suspect South had stolen a pair of pants along with a billfold from the cab of a tractor trailer rig on the parking of the TA Truck Stop. A witness to the offense chased Ms. South from the parking lot to the location where the officers found them. When Suspect South was caught by the witness, she struggled by scratching and attempting to bite the civilian witness. As the officers pulled up to the incident, the witness was holding Ms. South down on her stomach with his hands by pressing on her back. Officer King exited his vehicle and placed handcuffs on Ms. South behind her back as she lay on her stomach. Officer King also checked and found a pulse on Suspect South and observed her to be breathing. Dallas Fire Rescue # 725 was called to the scene and arrived approximately 3 minutes later. When the ambulance arrived, Officer King removed the handcuffs and Suspect South was transported to Charlton Methodist where she died a short time later. This offense was classified as an unexplained death and a report was made on Dallas Police service # 65702-W. On March 10, 2009, an autopsy was conducted by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences. The cause of death was determined to be Toxic effects of Cocaine. The Crimes Against Persons and Internal Affairs Divisions of the Dallas Police Department are conducting separate investigations into this incident. At this time, the case has not been heard by the Dallas County Grand Jury. Please direct any questions regarding the attached report to Sergeant Gary L. Kirkpatrick, # 3327, at 214-671-3596.

There is an increased risk of causing positional asphyxia when restraining those of particularly small or large build or those who have taken drugs, medications (anti-psychotics) or alcohol. People restrained in the prone position should be placed on their side or in a sitting, kneeling or standing position as soon as practicable. The IAP has issued advice on restraint and the use of force.

Staff working in a custody environment must be trained in managing violence. Training should include tactical communication skills as well as recognising and managing positional asphyxia and ABD, including excited delirium. Staff should also be trained in techniques for moving detainees and repositioning them from the prone position in accordance with the Personal Safety Manual of Guidance.

Officers and staff should avoid using the prone restraint position unless it is proportionate to the threat and necessary in the circumstances. Officers should keep the period for which it is used to a minimum.

When a detainee is restrained in a prone position, a safety officer should be responsible for monitoring the detainee’s conditions, particularly the airway and response, protecting and supporting the head and neck. That person should lead the team through the physical intervention process and monitor the detainee’s airway and breathing continuously. Care should also be taken not to place pressure on a detainee’s chest or obstruct the airways.

Prolonged restraint and struggling can result in exhaustion, reduced breathing leading to build up of toxic metabolites. This, with underlying medical conditions such as cardiac conditions, drugs use or use of certain antipsychotics, can result in sudden death with little warning.  The best management is de-escalation, avoiding prone restraint, restraining for the minimum amount of time, lying the detainee on their side and constant monitoring of vital signs.

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