The D.C. medical examiner's office ruled yesterday that a 36-year-old Washington man who died during a struggle with two D.C. police officers Feb. 9 suffered "compression of the neck" as the officers attempted to subdue him.
Ruled a homicide by Deputy Medical Examiner Stuart Dawson, the case will now go before a grand jury to determine whether the two officers used excessive force or otherwise engaged in misconduct.
Ronald M. Galloway of 1502 Van Buren St. NW collapsed and died after police attempted to handcuff him following a domestic dispute involving Galloway and a woman in an apartment at 1431 Somerset St. NW.
According to police reports the two officers, Loren A. Sarbacker and Stephen Beach, first separated Galloway and the woman and then began struggling with Galloway when he resisted efforts to remove him from the building.
As the officers were putting handcuffs on Galloway, they noticed he was having difficulty breathing, police said. He collapsed and was later pronounced dead at the scene.
In his brief report yesterday, Dawson noted that Galloway had a history of heart disease and that this was a contributing cause of his death. In an interview, Dawson said his reference to "compression of neck" was based on eyewitness accounts of the incident and on injuries to Galloway's neck of "a very minimal sort."
Dawson would not say whether the compression of his neck cut off Galloway's breath. Police reports say only that the officers used appropriate force to subdue Galloway. For unruly or violent encounters, officers are taught routinely at the police training academy here to control individuals by "yoking" them from the rear by placing an arm around their necks.
Dawson said the Galloway death is "not a simple case." Galloway's heart condition, known as cardiac hypertrophy, or enlarged heart, is an "important finding," he said. "It says that here's a man with heart disease who was being restrained by police, and he collapsed and died," Dawson said.
The two police officers have been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation, a routine action in police-related deaths.