Medical Examiner: Plastic Mask Did Not Contribute To Zehm's
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 22, 2006
SPOKANE, WASHINGTON--Friday's Associated Press reported that Spokane County Medical Examiner Sally Aiken has determined that a plastic mask with a small breathing hole, which officers had placed over the mouth of Otto Zehm to keep him from spitting on them, did not contribute to his death.
Prosecutor Steve Tucker is investigating the conduct of seven Spokane Police officers involved in the fatal arrest, beating, and hogtie restraint of Zehm. He asked Aiken to review the autopsy after it was suggested that the plastic oxygen mask, which an officer had obtained from a paramedic, might have restricted Zehm's breathing during the March 18 confrontation.
Aiken said she had contacted experts in Michigan who found that similar masks did not restrict airflow even for people walking on treadmills.
Aiken added that her initial determination still stands, that the innocent man's death was a homicide -- the result of a heart attack "while restrained in a prone position for excited delirium".
Tucker is currently waiting for a final review of videos taken from surveillance cameras at the Zip Trip convenience store where Zehm, 35, who reportedly had a mental disability and mental illness, was wrestled to the floor, beaten with nightsticks, zapped with Taser stun guns, and then restrained for several minutes on his stomach with his wrists and legs bound behind his back.
He died two days later at a local hospital.
Investigators have since learned that officers were acting on a false report of a robbery when they went to arrest Zehm.
Medical examiner: mask played no role in man's death (Associated Press via KGW)
Otto Zehm's Deadly Struggle With Cops (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)