Family suing city Phoenix after man dies two days after being arrested (but autopsy implies it was an overdose)

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Phoenix, Arizona – A lawsuit has been reportedly filed against the city of Phoenix with regard to the death of 40-year-old Casey Wells, who died two days after a police encounter in which he assaulted officers while gallivanting naked and “praising Jesus” in a residential area in Phoenix in February of 2019.

On February 4th of 2019, homeowners within a Phoenix neighborhood contacted police regarding a male subject who was “yelling incoherently and doing yoga poses”. When officers arrived on the scene, they encountered Wells, who took the liberty to disrobe when officers encountered him.

Witnesses of the police interaction noted that when the first officer arrived to confront the unclad suspect, he was allegedly refusing to be handcuffed. Backup units arrived on the scene to assist with the arrest, and Wells reportedly punched an officer and spat on him.

During this struggle, Wells was reportedly tased approximately four times as officers attempted to apply handcuffs to him. In the lawsuit being presented by the family, it is alleged that Wells was tased an additional time after being placed in cuffs.

Phoenix PD would not substantiate if there was any truth to the aforementioned due to the ongoing litigation.

However, the body cam footage obtained by the family’s attorney does not explicitly showcase Wells being tased while detained, but only mentions that one could possibly be heard being deployed in the background after his detention.

Essentially, the lawsuit alleges that officers onsite had retaliated against Wells after the physical confrontation. Lei Ann Stickney, the mother of the deceased, stated the following based upon her interpretation of the body cam footage:

“That was so unnecessary. He’s already handcuffed. He’s got a restraint on him. He’s face-down on the ground and you want to tase him too?”

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Once again, while the family feels as though Wells was tased while handcuffed, there’s yet to be any evidence to suggest that took place outside of perceived background noise from bodycam footage.

The only comment that Phoenix PD has relayed in regard to the lawsuit was that the officers acted within department policy when enacting the arrest of Wells back in 2019.

Jesse Showalter, the family’s attorney, stated the following about the case:

“What we’re seeing, again and again, is situations where police are using techniques or tactics on restrained people, people that don’t pose a threat, and those tactics are resulting in deaths.”

It is rather convenient that a lawsuit pertaining to Wells’ death that occurred two days after his encounter with police in February of 2019 is cropping up one month after the uprising of anti-police sentiments has become trendy in the wake of George Floyd’s death.  

While the timing of the lawsuit could merely be coincidental, there’s undoubtedly an element that can clearly ride off of the coattails of the anti-police rhetoric ongoing throughout the country.

While officers onsite noted that Wells lost consciousness during the fray between himself and police, there wasn’t anything seemingly related to his passing that can point directly to use of a taser. Wells was said to have never regained consciousness after his interaction with police and died two days later in the hospital.

When the medical examiner performed an autopsy on Wells, the primary causes of death were from methamphetamine, psychosis, and heart diseases – with mentions of elements attributed to “physical restraint” and “possible chest compression”.  

Wells was also positive for ecstasy, according to his toxicology report. Officers also found among his discarded clothes a glass pipe, methamphetamine, and approximately $3,300 in cash.

The lawsuit also notes that police should have known that Wells was suffering from some sort of mental episode and should have employed more techniques related to de-escalation, according to Showalter:

“When there is a naked man on the street praising Jesus out in the open in broad daylight, c’mon that should tell you there’s something not right, emotionally or mentally.”

Yet, whether or not more de-escalation methods could have been employed, it doesn’t negate the fact that Wells assaulted police – which typically results in a physical response by officers.

The family is said to be seeking an unspecified amount of money in the lawsuit against the city.

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