Two Hartford officers are off the job because of their injuries connected to an incident involving a man who died who was sedated after being tased by police during a medical disturbance, according to a law enforcement source.
Matthew Russo, 26, resisted when Hartford's Mobile Crisis team, Hartford police and Emergency Medical Services personnel responded to his home at 38 Kelsey Street at 8:30 p.m. on Friday.
A law enforcement source described the 26-year-old as an obese individual with a history of violent behavior. The source said Russo became combative and he was hit with what’s called a “drive stun”, a setting on a taser used to inflict less pain on a person.
The device was assigned to the officer, state police said. Then, medical personnel gave him a sedative, state police said.
When Russo began having trouble breathing, EMS officials administered medical aid. He was transported to Hartford Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
“This is the 17th time in the past 11 years someone in Connecticut has been tasered and died shortly after," David McGuire, legislative and policy director of ACLU of Connecticut, said. "So this to us highlights the need for further reform and transparency.”
McGuire said this Taser-related death will be the first in Hartford County referred to an outside prosecutor. That’s a requirement of a recently enacted excessive force law.
McGuire said it’s okay for police to be armed with Tasers. But he thinks it’s important to make sure the devices are used responsibly.
“We’re calling on police across the state to arm their tasers with cameras which will record video whenever a taser is used and in a complicated case like this where there was a health issue it will help kind of clarify what led to the tasing and dispel any questions quickly," McGuire said.
State police from the Western District Major Crime squad responded to the incident at 12:30 a.m. and have taken over the investigation.
Officials from the office of the chief medical examiner in Farmington responded, as well, and will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
The family living at 38 Kelsey Street declined to comment.
The incident remains under investigation.