Tag Archives: autopsy

Autopsy shows Dontre Hamilton was shot in the back

One of the 14 bullets fired by a Milwaukee police officer at a mentally ill man killed in downtown’s Red Arrow Park park in April hit him in the back, according to official autopsy results released Monday by an attorney for the man’s family.

Jon Safran, the attorney for Dontre Hamilton’s family, said he wants the public to have “more accurate information” as a prosecutor weighs whether to file charges against Officer Christopher Manney.

Hamilton was on the ground when Manney responded to a call for a welfare check and began a pat-down. Manney, who is white, said he fatally shot Hamilton, who was black, after a fight. Manney said he feared that Hamilton would kill him.

The autopsy, conducted by the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office, found that half of the 14 shots that hit Hamilton traveled downward, with one hitting his back. Safran said that seems to indicate the officer was standing above Hamilton. No gunpowder residue was found near Hamilton’s wounds, which Safran said showed the men were not close when Manney fired.

Milwaukee police referred comment to the medical examiner’s office, which declined comment. The district attorney also declined comment. The district attorney had been waiting for reports from outside experts to make a decision on charges.

Fred Anapol, professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, looked at the autopsy documents Monday and said the possibilities for the downward trajectory include the officer being taller or the gun otherwise being pointed down. But he said it’s hard to make conclusions without all the police reports.

“You can’t really tell anything just based on the autopsy,” he said. “You can’t tell intent, you can’t tell the circumstances.”

The autopsy also found abrasions on Hamilton’s chin, scalp, neck and arm. Safran said he’s seen photos of Manney immediately following the fight and they don’t seem to show any wounds on the officer.

“We just want to try to correct some of the misinformation out there, at least raise some concerns to be fair that the public and news media should be asking for more information from the department for them to justify how it can be described as this violent act by Dontre Hamilton against Christopher Manney,” Safran said.

The autopsy also revealed Hamilton had no drugs in his system.

Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney in October, saying he improperly treated Hamilton as a criminal. Flynn has said Hamilton resisted the pat-down and that the two exchanged punches and strikes before Hamilton hit Manney on the neck with Manney’s baton and Manney shot him.

Hamilton’s family says he had schizophrenia and described Hamilton as fearful, but not dangerous or violent.

Hamilton’s family led a rally in Red Arrow Park in August to show solidarity with Michael Brown’s family in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was also an unarmed black man who was shot by a white police officer.

Colorado police: Student who died in fall ate more pot than recommended

A Wyoming college student who jumped to his death at a Denver hotel had eaten more of a marijuana cookie than was recommended by a seller, police records show — a finding that comes amid increased concern about the strength of popular pot edibles after Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana.

Levy Thamba Pongi, 19, consumed more than one cookie purchased by a friend — even though a store clerk told the friend to cut each cookie into six pieces and to eat just one piece at a time, said the reports obtained late last week.

Pongi began shaking, screaming and throwing things around a hotel room before he jumped over a fourth-floor railing into the hotel lobby March 11. An autopsy report listed marijuana intoxication as a “significant contributing factor” in the death.

Marijuana cookies and other edibles have become increasingly popular since Colorado allowed people 21 and over to buy recreational marijuana this year at regulated stores. Federal authorities don’t regulate the edibles because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

After voters approved recreational pot, Colorado lawmakers tasked regulators with setting potency-testing guidelines to ensure consumers know how much pot they’re eating. Those guidelines are expected to be released next month.

Lawmakers also required edible pot to be sold in serving sizes of 10 milligrams of THC, marijuana’s intoxicating chemical.

The cannabis industry tries to educate consumers about the potency of marijuana-infused foods. But despite the warnings — including waiting for up to an hour to feel any effects — complaints by visitors and first-time users have been rampant.

In a separate case, a Denver man accused of killing his wife while she was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher ate marijuana-infused candy and possibly took prescription pain medication before the attack, according to a search warrant affidavit released last week.

It wasn’t known if pot influenced the behavior of Richard Kirk, 47, who is accused of shooting Kristine Kirk, 44. The affidavit says the woman told a dispatcher her husband had ingested marijuana candy and was hallucinating.

Pongi, a native of the Republic of Congo, and three friends from Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., traveled to Colorado for spring break.

At their hotel, the group of four friends followed the seller’s instructions. But when Pongi felt nothing after about 30 minutes, he ate an entire cookie, police said.

Within an hour, he began speaking erratically in French, shaking, screaming and throwing things around the hotel room. At one point he appeared to talk to a lamp.

Pongi’s friends tried to restrain him before he left the room and jumped to his death, police said.

One of his friends told investigators it may have been his first time using marijuana — the only drug toxicology tests found in his system. All three friends said they did not purchase or take any other drugs during their stay.

“The thing to realize is the THC that is present in edibles is a drug, and as with any drug, there’s a spectrum of ways in which people respond,” said Michael Kosnett, a medical toxicologist on the clinical faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

He said a person’s genetic makeup, health issues and other factors can make a difference, and first-time users might consume too much, unaware of how their bodies will react.

“The possibility for misadventure is increased,” Kosnett said.

The marijuana concentration in Pongi’s blood was 7.2 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. Colorado law says juries can assume someone is driving while impaired if their blood contains more than 5 nanograms per milliliter.

In the days that followed the death of Pongi, Denver police confiscated the remaining cookies from the pot shop to test their levels of THC. The wrapper of the cookies bought by the students said each contained 65 mg of THC for 6 1/2 servings. Tests showed the cookies were within the required THC limits, police said.

However, the wrappers also cautioned that “this marijuana product has not been tested for contaminants or potency.” One of Pongi’s friends became sick to his stomach after eating part of the cookie, but the others felt no negative effect.

Colorado law bans the sale of recreational marijuana products to people under 21, and adults can be charged with a felony for giving pot to someone under the legal age.

Authorities, however, said they would not press charges against Pongi’s 23-year-old friend who told police she bought the cookies while he waited outside the store. Denver district attorney’s spokeswoman Maro Casparian said investigators determined there was no crime. She declined to elaborate.

Man admits to killing Miss. gay mayoral candidate

An autopsy report says a man admitted to killing a Mississippi mayoral candidate in February and that the victim died from lack of oxygen, but it doesn’t give an exact reason for the death beyond calling it a homicide.

The report says blunt force trauma most likely contributed to Clarksdale mayoral candidate Marco McMillian’s death, but the cause of death is listed as “asphyxia by undetermined etiology,” which is the medical branch dealing with causes. That means McMillian died from a lack of oxygen, but exactly what caused that could not be determined.

“Additional autopsy findings that most likely contributed to his death are multiple areas of blunt force trauma to the head that are consistent with a beating,” Dr. Mark LeVaughn, the state medical examiner, wrote in the report dated May 1.

McMillian’s death on Feb. 27 got significant attention after his campaign said he was the first viable, openly gay candidate for office in Mississippi. McMillian’s sexual orientation was not an issue in his campaign, but because McMillian was gay and black, some speculated that his death might have been a hate crime.

The autopsy report said a suspect in the case “admitted to killing” McMillian and dumping his body near a Mississippi River levee in rural Coahoma County.

The suspect, Lawrence Reed, also is black. A spokesman for McMillian’s campaign has said he didn’t know Reed and wasn’t sure how McMillian was acquainted with him.

McMillian’s body was found one day after Reed crashed McMillian’s SUV head-on into another vehicle.

Reed was treated for injuries at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn., and charged with murder after his release from the hospital. He was returned to Coahoma County, Miss., and has been held without bond.

Will Rooker, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said he couldn’t comment on Friday because the investigation is ongoing.

Rooker said he doesn’t know the name of Reed’s lawyer.

Without naming Reed, the autopsy report said the man who was in the wreck in McMillian’s SUV “admitted to killing Mr. McMillian and dumping his body near the levee.” Authorities have previously said that Reed was alone when he crashed McMillian’s vehicle.

The report said McMillian’s body was unclothed.

The report also said there were abrasions and lacerations on McMillian’s head, back and legs and multiple “areas of second and third degree burns.”

A previous report, the preliminary finding from the autopsy on Feb. 28, said the cause of death was pending and that the trauma to McMillian’s head was “non-lethal.” That document also said the burns happened “peri-mortem,” meaning at or near the time of death.

The report said it could not be determined if the burns happened before or after McMillian’s death.

McMillian’s family released a statement March 3 that said his body was “beaten, dragged and burned,” leading some to assume it was dragged by a car.

But the coroner, Scotty Meredith, said at the time that McMillian was not dragged by a car, though he was dragged out of a vehicle by someone and his body left near the levee.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, asked the FBI on March 5 to review the case for possible hate crime charges.

Daniel McMullen, the special agent in charge in Mississippi, has said the agency has been monitoring the investigation since March 1.

The FBI could investigate whether a federal hate crime occurred. Federal law covers acts motivated by bias against sexual orientation, while Mississippi’s state law against hate crimes covers acts motivated by race, but not sexual orientation.

GOP ponders long list of names for 2016

Republicans’ search for a way back to presidential success is drawing a striking array of personalities and policy options, creating a wide-open self-reassessment of the party. GOP activists may need three full years to decide which candidate and which philosophy will serve them best in 2016.

Rival factions are trying to tug the party left or right, toward pragmatism or defiance, toward small-government purity versus pride in the good that government can do.

Traditional stands against same-sex marriage and against looser immigration laws are being challenged. And the tea party’s influence – a mixed blessing in recent U.S. Senate races – looms large in early presidential jockeying after a muted role in the heart of last year’s contest.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is generating nationwide attention with a libertarian-tinged message that drew modest attention until a short time ago.

Marco Rubio, a tea party hero since elbowing his way past Florida’s Republican governor in the 2010 Senate race, is practically a GOP mainstreamer now. Republicans don’t need a new idea, he told a recent gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference, because they already have one. “The idea is called America, and it still works,” Rubio said.

At the same conference, Paul espoused a different view. The Republican Party, he said, is “stale and moss-covered.”

It’s Paul – not Rubio or one of the several governors eyeing a presidential bid – who got the coveted invitation to headline the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner in May.

It’s possible, of course, that one Republican candidate will pull away from the pack over the next two years. But the absence of an early frontrunner is unusual for a party that traditionally picks its nominee with a next-in-line mindset, said Dan Schnur, a former Republican campaign aide who teaches political science at the University of Southern California. Now, he said, “there is no hierarchy.”

Thus far, no one is creating more buzz than Rand Paul, whose father, Ron Paul, is a libertarian champion and three-time presidential candidate. The younger Paul generally avoids his father’s more esoteric issues, such as abolishing the Federal Reserve and returning to the gold standard.

Rand Paul’s anti-war stand also is softer than his father’s. But the junior senator from Kentucky gained widespread attention this month with a 13-hour filibuster challenging U.S. policy for using drones to kill terrorist suspects.

Soon thereafter, Paul won CPAC’s presidential straw poll – as his father did in past years – and delivered a widely covered speech on immigration.

“Rand Paul is going to be a very serious candidate for president,” said Steve Schmidt, a chief strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He’s going to challenge the orthodoxies, some of the litmus tests, of what has defined conservatism. The libertarian wing, which has been dormant, will assert itself.”

Even Paul’s occasional critics salute his fast rise.

“He’s passionate, he knows no fear and he’s true to his beliefs,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who publicly rebuked Paul’s remarks about drone policies.

“We’re on different planets when it comes to foreign policy,” Graham said. He cautioned Paul: “I think it’s going to be difficult to lead the Republican Party without embracing peace through strength, the Ronald Reagan approach to national security.”

The higher Paul soars, the more scrutiny his record will draw. That record might unsettle Republicans who say the party must edge toward the center to attract more voters.

Paul strongly opposes abortion rights, saying human life begins at conception and should be entitled to legal protection from then on. He muddied the waters in a recent CNN interview, however, saying, “There are thousands of exceptions” that might make an abortion legal.

Paul also has struggled to explain changes to his once-firm stand against illegal immigration. In a major speech this month he set out a plan to let illegal immigrants remain in the U.S. and ultimately get a chance to become citizens, but he generally avoided direct references to citizenship.

Nearly equaling Paul in early presidential speculation is Rubio, 41, who is tasked with helping his party find better footing on immigration. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, is trying to craft a lengthy but feasible path to citizenship for the nation’s millions of illegal immigrants. Rubio and Paul may end up with similar positions, although Paul wants more stringent requirements for certifying that the Mexican border is secure before moving ahead with other immigration changes.

Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Some GOP strategists hope Rubio can reverse the trend.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has called for immigration reform and whose wife is Mexican-American, also is in the presidential mix. It’s not clear whether he and Rubio can advance simultaneously. Also, Bush’s father and brother left the White House with low approval ratings.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 vice presidential nominee, is considering a presidential campaign that inevitably would draw scrutiny to his efforts to slash social spending without raising taxes on anyone, including the rich.

Warren G. Harding was the last Republican elected directly from the Senate or House to the presidency. As usual, several governors are weighing presidential bids. At least three – Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bob McDonnell of Virginia – might make a pragmatic, can-do argument, having governed toss-up or Democratic-leaning states.

But they already see the challenge of running in a party whose primaries are dominated by conservative activists.

Christie, who praised Obama’s role in hurricane relief, was refused a speaking slot at CPAC. And conservative bloggers are hammering McDonnell for a Virginia transportation overhaul that includes new taxes.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal – a former Rhodes Scholar who urges Republicans to stop being “the stupid party” and obsessing over budgets – also might run for president.

Personalities aside, Republicans are bracing for an intense philosophical debate. Should they edge toward the political center to draw moderates and independents who helped elect Obama? And if so, how do they avoid antagonizing evangelicals, immigration hard-liners and other conservative stalwarts who comprise the party’s base?

Schmidt notes that the base’s loyalty didn’t keep the party from losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.

If Republicans recalibrate their message “based on talk radio hosts and extreme bloggers, it’s like putting a magnet to your compass,” Schmidt said. “The readings go haywire,” and there’s no way to pick up the extra voters the party needs, he said.

Schnur, the consultant-turned-academic, said Republicans realize they can’t win presidential races without changing. “A much harder decision is not whether to do things differently,” he said, “but how.”

Investigators seek cause of death of U.S. socialite

Casey Johnson, an heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, lived the life of a Hollywood socialite — partying with Paris Hilton, posing for paparazzi, becoming engaged to bisexual reality TV star Tila Tequila and, like her idol Marilyn Monroe, dying young.

An autopsy Jan. 5 found no evidence of trauma on the body of the 30-year-old Johnson and a determination of the cause of death was deferred pending toxicological tests and microscopic studies that could take eight weeks or more.

Johnson was diagnosed with diabetes as a child, but it was unclear if that had a role in her death.

Johnson’s body was found Jan. 4 in the California home where she lived.

There were no signs of foul play, according to police.

— AP