Friday, August 17, 2018
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Man Killed By Police Officers While Trying to Swallow Drugs in Attempt to Avoid Arrest
Louisiana police essentially choked to death 42-year-old Donel Adam Stogner during a traffic stop in early July of 2009, but you'd never know it from local press outlets' coverage of the story. In their post about the incident, CBS affiliate WAFB reports that Stogner's death resulted from "a long struggle" after which Stogner - who was stopped by police in the early morning hours for "reportedly weaving in and out of traffic" - "complain[ed] of shortness of breath [and] was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead" ("Deadly Traffic Stop Raises Questions").
In fact, as Scott Morgan wrote in a July 17 blog post for the Drug War Chronicle ("Man Tries to Swallow Drugs, Gets Choked to Death by Police"), Stogner "died on the scene with a broken bone in his throat" - the result of officers' overzealous attempts to convince Stogner to spit out a "small bag of drugs" he intended to swallow. Huffington Post's Ryan Grim describes the video recorded from a dashboard-mounted camera (which is viewable both at the Post's and the Chronicle's websites), stating that "an officer can be heard repeatedly shouting 'spit it out,' while [...] trying to force the man's jaw open." The officer's actions fractured Stogner's "hyoid bone, which is a small bone in your throat," according to Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Jason Ard, who spoke with Grim on July 13 ("Scuffle With Police Ends in Death for Man Trying to Swallow Drugs"). In the interview, Ard says he regrets only that "someone lost their [sic] life" but that, otherwise, "there's no regret" on the department's part regarding the circumstances surrounding that lost life. Ard even tries to deny police culpability in the killing, stating that he expects the coroner to rule "that the cause of death was 'basically [due to Stogner's] heart condition [combined] with the methampetamine that was found in his system."
Ard repeatedly contends that the officer's handling of the situation "was appropriate" and "reasonable." However, drug policy reform advocates and civil rights watchdogs disagree. As Morgan writes, "How many among us can watch police literally squeeze the life out of this frightened man and say that justice has been served?"