Gaithersburg man dies after being hit with pepper spray, shot by stun guns

April 20, 2013

A 51-year-old man died Friday after Montgomery County police officers used Tasers and pepper spray to subdue him during an unusual encounter in the Gaithersburg area, authorities said.

Police have not said precisely what caused the man’s death or whether the stun gun and pepper spray blasts might have played a role. They said detectives were talking with officials at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and looking for people who saw what happened.

The incident began just after 6 p.m., when someone called 911 to report that a man was standing in a parked pickup truck in the 8800 block of Cross Country Place, yelling profanities and hitting the vehicle with rocks. When a police officer arrived, the man jumped from the pickup truck to the roof of a sport-utility vehicle, authorities said.

The officer ordered the man to get off the vehicle, and after he did so, he “continued to act aggressively and strangely” and disregarded the officer’s commands, police said. The officer pepper-sprayed him and the man ran, police said.

A short distance away, police said, the man picked up and dropped a potted plant and a landscaping rock, then hit the front door of a home with a child’s scooter. When he ignored officers’ commands to move off the porch of that home, two officers shot him with their Tasers, police said.

Police said that after officers handcuffed the man, they noticed he was not breathing and began administering CPR. The man was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Police did not immediately release the man’s name, saying family members had not yet been notified of his death. They said five officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

Police said detectives have interviewed about 12 witnesses and asked that others who might have seen something to call the department’s Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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