Shun Ma was taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment of an elbow injury he sustained during a struggle with officers, Seattle Police Assistant Chief Robert Merner said.

Share story

Seattle police are investigating the death of a 64-year-old mentally ill man who county medical investigators say died as a result of an injury suffered during his arrest earlier this month.

Shun Ma was arrested at his Beacon Hill home Dec. 3 on suspicion of threatening to kill his brother. After police handcuffed him, he was immediately taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment of an elbow injury sustained during his struggle with officers, Seattle Police Assistant Chief Robert Merner said.

On Dec. 5, Ma was charged in Seattle Municipal Court with misdemeanor harassment for threatening his brother.

Wednesday morning, Ma’s sister contacted police to recover his belongings that were taken into evidence when he was arrested. Detectives learned during her call that Ma had died, police said in a news release. The man had died in the hospital’s intensive-care unit Tuesday, police said.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Ma had been at Harborview since his arrest, police said, though it’s unclear why he was there so long.

On Wednesday afternoon, an investigator with the King County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Ma died from a pulmonary embolus, or blood clot, sustained after “an altercation with police.” The office said Ma’s “schizophrenia with out of control and threatening behavior” contributed to his death.

After doing an autopsy, a county medical investigator rules whether someone has died of a homicide, suicide or accidental death. In Ma’s case, the office ruled he died of a homicide.

In a written statement, police said the department and the “King County Medical Examiner’s office are working to review details surrounding the death of a 64-year-old man, who sustained non-life-threatening injuries during an arrest earlier this month. It appears other medical factors played a significant role in his death.”

Merner said the department’s Force Investigation Team and the Office of Professional Accountability are investigating the circumstances surrounding Ma’s arrest.

Wood Ma, 55, said his older brother had been battling mental illness for more than 20 years. Shun Ma lived on state assistance, spending his days exercising, going to the library or walking to the Chinatown-International District, his brother said.

In the days leading to his arrest, Shun Ma was quick to anger and had been refusing to take his mental-health medications, his brother said.

“He would go crazy, yelling around the house,” the younger brother said.

On Dec. 3, Wood Ma said, he was in a bedroom and his brother was yelling at him.

“He accused me of stealing his medications. He said if I didn’t give them back to him he’d kill me,” Wood Ma said.

The younger brother dialed 911 and said that five or six police officers were at their home within 15 minutes. Officers ordered Wood Ma to remain in his room while they tried to reason with his brother, Wood Ma said.

As officers handcuffed Shun Ma, he told them he worked for the FBI, Wood Ma said.

The younger brother said he didn’t see the arrest, nor did he hear his brother yell out in pain or complain about being injured.

The Ma family assumed Shun Ma was fine and heading to jail, until they received a call from a doctor at Harborview Medical Center on Monday telling them that he was in critical condition, Wood Ma said.

“I was kind of surprised,” Wood Ma said. He said the family decided to remove life support Monday.

Wood Ma didn’t know medical investigators had ruled his brother’s death a homicide. He said he doesn’t blame police for the death.

“My brother was out of control. I would say the officers did it the right way,” he said about the arrest.