A mentally ill woman died after a stun gun was used on her at the Fairfax County jail in Virginia last February. Fairfax County sits next to Washington, D.C.
Natasha McKenna was restrained with handcuffs behind her back, leg shackles and a mask when a sheriff’s deputy shocked her four times, according to incident reports, states The Washington Post.
McKenna initially cooperated with deputies, placed her hands through her cell door food slot and agreed to be handcuffed, the reports show.
But McKenna, whose deteriorating mental state had caused Fairfax to seek help for her, then began trying to fight her way out of the cuffs, repeatedly screaming, “You promised you wouldn’t hurt me!” the reports show, states The Washington Post.
Six members of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team – including two supervisors – were dressed in white full-body biohazard suits and gas masks, and placed a struggling 130-pound McKenna into full restraints, states Patch.com.
“But when McKenna wouldn’t bend her knees so she could be placed into a wheeled restraint chair, a lieutenant delivered four 50,000-volt shocks from the Taser, enabling the other deputies to strap her into the chair, the reports show,” stated the Washington Post.
Attorney Harvey J. Volzer said doctors have told the family that the 37-year-old woman was stunned as many as five times during an encounter with sheriff’s deputies as they prepared to transfer her to Alexandria to face a charge stemming from a fight with police there, states The Washington Post.
According to Patch.com, the Fairfax County Police Department, in conjunction with the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, released the following details Thursday regarding the current in-custody death investigation of Alexandria resident Natasha McKenna:
“On Tuesday, Jan. 20, the Alexandria City Police Department obtained a felony warrant against Natasha McKenna for assaulting a law enforcement officer(Code of Virginia §18.2-57). The assault occurred during an encounter they had with her on Thursday, Jan. 15.
On Sunday, Jan. 25, McKenna called the Fairfax County Department of Public Safety Communications Center reporting that she had been assaulted. The arriving Fairfax County police officer then assisted her with making the report and she agreed to be examined at a local hospital for her alleged injuries. Detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department’s Major Crimes Division and Crime Scene Section also responded to conduct a follow-up investigation.
While at the hospital with McKenna, detectives and a victim services specialist assisted with the investigative efforts. During the course of the investigative efforts, McKenna elected to no longer pursue the investigation and declined further police services. During the course of the investigation, a record check revealed McKenna had the outstanding arrest warrant for assaulting a law enforcement officer in Alexandria City.
On Monday, Jan. 26, shortly after 1 a.m., McKenna was transported from the hospital to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center (ADC), where the warrant was served and she was remanded to the custody of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, as directed by a Fairfax County magistrate. The Sheriff’s Office made contact with Alexandria at approximately 7:40 a.m. to inform them that they were holding an inmate with an Alexandria City charge.
On Saturday, Jan. 31, McKenna physically assaulted a Fairfax County deputy sheriff while incarcerated at the ADC.
On Tuesday, Feb. 3, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, pursuant to its protocols for managing combative inmates, made a decision to have the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) remove McKenna from her cell for transport to the detention center in the City of Alexandria as related to her charge that originated in the City of Alexandria. As the SERT attempted to secure McKenna in her cell and restrain her for transport, she physically resisted the deputies and refused their commands. The SERT consisted of six deputy sheriffs, which included two supervisors.
During the struggle to restrain McKenna, a member of the SERT deployed a conducted energy weapon (Taser) on McKenna. While being restrained, deputies placed a spit net (which is designed to restrict and prevent spitting) on McKenna. A nurse from the ADC medical staff was present at that time to check on her prior to transport and cleared her for transport. Deputies attempted to put her in a medical transport chair, but McKenna continued to be combative and was moved to a restraint chair for transport to a vehicle transfer area, commonly known as a sally port.
A Fairfax County deputy sheriff was assigned to record the deployment of the SERT and the video is currently retained as evidence by detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department and will not be released at this time.
Deputies escorted McKenna from the cell area to the sally port where the transport vehicle was waiting. Once at the sally port, medical personnel from the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office checked McKenna and determined she was experiencing a medical emergency. The spit net and restraints were removed and medical staff and deputies from the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office administered CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) while awaiting rescue personnel from the Fairfax City Fire Department. McKenna was then transported to the hospital by ambulance and after life support was removed, died on Sunday, Feb. 8.
There were reports from outside sources that alluded to McKenna suffering an amputated finger. However, the investigation by detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department affirmed that McKenna had a pre-existing injury (missing the tip of her ring finger on her left hand), which was noted during the arrest booking on Monday, Jan. 26.
To date, detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department have conducted an extensive number of comprehensive interviews, and the in-custody death investigation is active and on-going. When complete, detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department’s Major Crimes Division will present their entire investigation, which will include any video and data from the conducted energy weapon, along with the findings of the Office of the Medical Examiner (still awaiting report), to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office for an independent review to determine if there is any criminal liability under the Code of Virginia.
All information provided in this release is based on the ongoing investigation and may be subject to revision as the investigation continues. The Fairfax County Police Department and the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office continue to work together to release information and complete a swift, thorough investigation. The Fairfax County Police Department will provide further updates within the next 30 days or as soon as additional information becomes available.”