Valley Man Died After Chase on Highway 99

December 22, 2008 2:11:03 PM PST
A 53- year old man died Thursday shortly after being tazered during a strange highway stand-off with authorities in Merced.A viewer sent this photo into the action newsroom.

It shows the scene on Highway 99, moments after the standoff ended.

The Highway Patrol says it started when the man drove south on northbound 99 causing several accidents along the way.

He finally stopped near Childs Avenue where officers pulled him out of the vehicle.

Authorities have just identified the driver as Richard Abston. Police say he was aggressive and acting strangely when they tried to arrest him on this section of Highway 99. This Thursday afternoon, the department defended the decision to use a tazer and said other factors must have caused the man's death.

Highway Patrol Officers say the driver of this silver truck put himself and several other people in danger when he drove down Highway 99 in the wrong direction, swerving toward oncoming traffic.

Officer Shane Ferriera: "We did have multiple accidents that were reported near Martin Luther King Boulevard here in Merced near the freeway."

The driver eventually stopped in the median near Childs Avenue, but authorities say his bizarre behavior didn't end there.

Ferriera: "CHP officers showed up and contacted the driver behind the wheel. The officer pulled the driver out, but the driver became combative, flailing his arms."

The Highway Patrol says the man ran down the highway, even climbing on top of a stopped big rig at one point. Officers tried subduing him with a baton and pepper spray before a Merced Police officer finally used his tazer like this one.

Higdon: "The subject did go to the ground following the deployment?"

But authorities say the man kept struggling as they put him in handcuffs. They say he injured two officers and even slammed his own head against the ground before suddenly becoming unresponsive.

Cmdr. Floyd Higdon, Merced Police: "CPR was immediately started, and an ambulance was called to the scene."

The man died at Mercy Medical Center Merced less than an hour later. His cause of death is still unknown, but a tazer instructor for the police department says the weapon itself is not capable of killing someone.

Sgt. Don King, Merced Police: "That's a common misunderstanding that tazers cause somebody to die. There are other factors that cause people to die and in most cases they find its excited delirium."

The Sheriff's Office has now taken over the investigation, and an autopsy is scheduled for Friday.

We've also learned that five other cars were involved in related accidents, but no one was injured in those crashes.

The police officers who were injured have been treated and released.


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