Gallaudet University, where a deaf man died last Friday after a struggle with campus police, prohibits its officers from using choke holds, a university spokeswoman said yesterday.
"There is no situation where the choke hold is okay," said Muriel Strassler, director of public relations at Gallaudet, the country's premier university for deaf students.
Carl Dupree, 41, of Springfield, died of asphyxiation by neck compression, which apparently broke his hyoid bone, according to an autopsy report.
Although no determination has been made regarding the cause of the broken bone, the possibility that a choke hold was used on Dupree has been raised by District police.
A choke hold, also known as a trachea hold or arm-bar hold, is an application of pressure to the front of the neck as a way of restraining or rendering a person unconscious by cutting off his air supply.
The pressure may be applied using the forearm or a firm object such as a police nightstick or flashlight.
Gallaudet security police do not carry nightsticks, according to the university.
D.C. police have ruled Dupree's death a homicide, meaning it was caused by another person. No one has been charged in connection with the incident. Both the university and D.C. police are investigating.
Dr. James Luke, a former D.C. medical examiner who is now a consultant to the FBI, said that depending on how the hold is applied it can cause death by asphyxiation by obstructing a person's airways, compromising the arterial blood flow to the brain or stimulating certain reflex centers in the top portion of the neck that case the heart to slow down.
The District outlawed the use of the choke hold by D.C. police officers in early 1984, after two suspects died as a result of being restrained by officers using it.
Dupree's widow, Avis, and other family members met yesterday with the D.C. law firm of Beveridge and Diamond, but they would not comment on what further steps the family planned. They are setting up a memorial fund to be known as the Dupree Educational Fund for the education of his four children, ages 4 to 11.
University sources familiar with the incident involving Dupree say it started in the university's Hall Memorial Building about 3:30 p.m. last Friday when he went to see an English instructor about a grade.
Dupree had withdrawn from the university about three weeks ago to spend more time working to support his family.
There was an argument between the instructor and Dupree, and the instructor went to his supervisor. They called for campus police, and two officers went to the building.
Dupree and the two officers walked to the Ely Center, another campus building. A struggle began just inside the side entrance to the center. A second call for assistance went out. It is not clear who made the call, or what prompted it.
Four additional security officers arrived at the Ely Center's side entrance. During the struggle, an officer handcuffed Dupree but initially was able to secure only one of his hands.
Dupree was about 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed more than 200 pounds, according to his family.
As the struggle continued, one officer reportedly was hit by Dupree using the hand with the handcuff. Eventually, both handcuffs were applied, with Dupree's hands behind his back.
A second officer also was reported injured during the scuffle.
A third call, for medical assistance, went out when Dupree collapsed.
Medical personnel, including one trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, arrived within two or three minutes and administered assistance. Those personnel were from the security-force training course underway at Gallaudet.
Dupree was taken to Capitol Hill Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The two injured campus officers were taken to a nearby hospital, Strassler said.
One was a woman officer who was kicked in the stomach, the spokeswoman said; the other was a male officer who had head injuries.
Gallaudet has about 36 campus security officers, including about 30 at the Northeast Washington campus.
The officers, who range in age from the early twenties to the mid-sixties, are all university employees. Minimum requirements include three years of some experience, which could be police or security work.
All new security officers take a seven-week course, which covers a range of issues from arrest guidelines to the D.C. court system.
After taking the course, they are required to take two sign language courses during their first year at Gallaudet.
In the past, Gallaudet has had security officers who are hearing-impaired, but there are none at present.
Christine Multra, student body president, said many students are concerned about the officers' restraint procedures. Handcuffing a deaf person in effect silences him, she said.
Students are advocating a study of restraint with chains, which would allow movement of the hands.
Just inside a side entrance to Ely Center, students have constructed a memorial to Dupree. Dozens of photocopies of his student identification card are layered among white flowers. Notes handwritten on white and yellow paper read "We Love You" and "We Miss You."
Staff writer Keith Harriston contributed to this report.