Condition Puzzles Experts Many in Police Custody Have Died of Agitated Delirium

By John G. Carlton Post-Dispatch Medical | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 26, 1997 | Go to article overview

Condition Puzzles Experts Many in Police Custody Have Died of Agitated Delirium


John G. Carlton Post-Dispatch Medical, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


At least 11 people have died in police custody in the St. Louis area since 1990 while in the throes of a mysterious, often violent medical condition called agitated delirium, a review of death records shows.

In all, at least 20 people have died from the syndrome here over the last decade - 14 of those after police restrained them. Among them was Randolph Vance, 47, whose death on Oct. 20 sparked allegations of police brutality. Family members and friends also have alleged a police cover-up.

A grand jury will likely be asked to determine if police used excessive force in their struggle to restrain Vance, an official from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's office said. The larger issue - how often such cases occur, how they're handled and whether changes in police procedures could help prevent future problems - has never been systematically addressed by city, county or East St. Louis police, officials said. San Diego, which has about the same population as St. Louis, created a task force to examine police custody deaths after seven people died between 1989 and 1992. Since then, only two agitated delirium deaths have occurred in police custody. The syndrome was first described in Miami in the mid-1980s. It often occurs in people who have used illegal drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and the hallucinogen PCP. However, it is also seen in people with psychiatric problems who have not used illegal drugs. In some of those cases, medications used to treat those patients have been blamed. People with agitated delirium become irrational, exhibit bizarre behavior and extreme paranoia, then suddenly collapse and die. Often, they have greatly elevated body temperatures that can reach 110 degrees or more. They can demonstrate what is often described as "superhuman" strength before collapsing. Because of the way death records are compiled and stored, no one can say for certain how often such deaths occur in Missouri and Illinois or elsewhere around the country. The 1992 San Diego report documented at lea st 94 deaths nationwide, but experts say the true number is far greater. No one knows how often police are involved; or what other elements may come into play. Nor do they know how frequently police restraint is a factor in such deaths as St. Louis Medical Examiner Michael A. Graham said it was with Vance. No one knows how often such deaths go misdiagnosed or unreported - although experts say that is almost certainly the case, especially in rural areas or places where a coroner rather than a forensic pathologist investigates deaths. What is clear is the chilling similarity of many cases. Among the local examples: 1996: A St. Louis County man, celebrating his 40th birthday, suddenly begins complaining about being overheated. He has been drinking and injecting cocaine. He strips off his clothes and leaps through a plate glass window. After police arrest the man, he collapses. He is pronounced dead shortly afterward. 1996: A St. Louis county man, 29, locks himself in his bathroom and begins binging on cocaine. Police are called. They break into the room. He is restrained and arrested, then taken to a hospital. He dies shortly afterward. 1995: A psychiatric patient, 44, in St. Louis becomes agitated. Security guards restrain him. Shortly afterward, he dies. 1994: A city man, 30, is running wildly through his neighborhood. He has been using cocaine. Paramedics and police are called. Police restrain him, and he is put into an ambulance. When he arrives at a hospital, he is dead. 1993: A city woman, 41, with a history of psychiatric problems begins to act strangely. Again, police and paramedics are called. Police restrain her and put her in an ambulance. She dies on the way to the hospital. 1992: A man, 32, is visiting friends in East St. Louis when he suddenly becomes unruly and barricades himself in a room. Police break in the front door. The man leaps through a closed window and tries to flee. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Condition Puzzles Experts Many in Police Custody Have Died of Agitated Delirium
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.