Autopsy: Teen hit by Taser died of cardiac arrest

A 17-year-old shocked with a Taser by police after an altercation at a northern Charlotte grocery store died from cardiac arrest, according to an autopsy released Friday.

Darryl Wayne Turner's heart was pumping so fast and chaotically from the Taser shot and stress of the confrontation that it stopped pumping blood properly. He died of acute ventricular dysrhythmia and ventricular fibrillation, according to the Mecklenburg medical examiner's office.

Turner was the first Taser-related fatality in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's history and the youngest in the Carolinas this decade.

Police confronted an “agitated” Turner on March 20 during an argument with his manager of a Prosperity Church Road grocery store. Police said Turner threw something at a manager, ignored commands and advanced toward Officer Jerry Dawson Jr., who deployed a Taser. The energy weapon struck Turner in the chest, and he fell to the carpeted floor.

“This lethal disturbance in the heart rhythm was precipitated by the agitated state and associated stress as well as the use of the conducted energy weapon (Taser) designed for incapacitation through electro-muscular disruption,” Dr. Thomas Owens wrote in the autopsy.

Owens found no pre-existing heart problems.

Turner worked at the Food Lion store, where he was a cashier and bagged groceries. Documents state he was asked by a manager to leave the store but refused. Police said Officer Jerry Dawson Jr., a 15-year veteran, fired his Taser to get Turner under control after the teen advanced toward him. An attorney representing the family says he talked to a witness who refutes the account.

An April study by the Taser Safety Project found that the improper use of Tasers has contributed to the deaths of at least 11 people in North Carolina over the past four years. The autopsy cites a National Institute of Justice study that concludes that while Tasers devices are not risk-free, there is “no conclusive medical evidence” indicating a high risk of serious injury.