The inquest into the death of Adrian McDonald concluded this week that his death was due to “the effects of cocaine and stress of incident, following police dog bites and Taser.”
Adrian was arrested, restrained, bitten by a police dog, tasered, and then left in a police van struggling to breathe properly.
The police were called to a party in Chesterton, where Adrian was behaving erratically, barricading himself in a room. Staffordshire police were called and reported that Adrian was deranged and rambling.
Evidence was heard that 5 dog bites were obtained on Adrian’s body; on his right arm and leg. The bites went through skin, fat and into muscle tissue.
The jury concluded that due to Adrian’s cocaine induced paranoia, the level of force used may have increased his stress levels, which may have in turn contributed to his death.
Adrian told the police he had taken drugs. Footage shows Adrian heavily breathing, slumped in the back of a police van. Adrian was recorded as saying ‘I can’t breathe’ four times, as well as ‘please.’
An officer responded with ‘you can breathe because you are talking, deep breaths.’ The jury noted that the officer was coaching Adrian to breathe.
Shortly after, Adrian lost consciousness. Evidence showed that a further 9 minutes went past before an ambulance was called out, but Adrian was pronounced dead at the scene.
Family pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper gave expert evidence at the inquest. He said that Adrien died from a combination of cocaine and stress. “The greater the stress the greater the risk of death. I don’t know how much pain Adrian was in but pain is a form of stress. Cocaine could cause anyone’s death but in the overall circumstances it was not just the cocaine.”
Adrian died on the 22nd of December 2014, at the age of 34. He is deeply missed by his two young children and family.
Ruth Bundey stated:
The senior officer said at the outset of the incident that this was a man suffering a delusion and temporary impairment of mind. This should have rung alarm bells. Since 2016 due to new policy and training a man presenting as Adrian did must be treated as a medical emergency and taken straight to A&E.
Wayne McDonald, brother of Adrian, commented that his brother sustained horrific injuries that night:
Although he asked for help repeatedly, nobody thought he needed medical assistance. The Jury could not decide whether or not the police played any part in Adrian’s death. They’ve just said the police may have contributed to his death.
Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said:
When responding to displaying signs of paranoia and distress, the police must do better than resorting to the violence of tasers and dogs. De-escalation would have been a far more appropriate response, and may have stopped Adrian from suffering in this horrific way.
Use of force is disproportionately a tactic employed against people with Black, Asian and minority ethnicities. The Angiolini review into deaths in police custody made pragmatic recommendations to address this ongoing failure, which we call on the Government to urgently enact.
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The Family of Adrian McDonald was represented by Inquest Lawyers Group member Ruth Bundey, of Harrison Bundey Solicitors, and Jason Pitter QC of New Park Court Chambers Leeds.
Inquests are held if someone has died an unnatural, violent or sudden death. The purpose of an inquest into a death in police custody is to investigate the surrounding circumstances and whether any systemic failures have contributed to the death. Inquests aim to ensure that any failures are exposed, so that other lives are not lost to the same process.
Ruth Bundey of Harrison Bundey solicitors represented the family. She is a longstanding partner of the firm, specialising in representing families of those who have died in custody. She is recognised for her advocacy and is a leading inquest lawyer.
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