It was a Saturday morning last summer and Patrice Brown, her brother, her father and a friend were inside the family’s home in Tukwila.
Brown’s brother, Victor Duffy Jr., asked her if she had his phone charger. When she said that she didn’t, he walked away and picked up the home phone and called 911 to report the missing charger.
Within the next hour, Duffy Jr., 25, was dead.
His family contends that the mentally ill man, who was off his medications that day, died after responding Tukwila police used a Taser on him.
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The King County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled his death was caused by “sudden death associated with the manifestations of excited delirium and following physical restraint.” The manner of death has not been determined.
Brown recollected the events of June 20 at the King County Courthouse on Tuesday during the first day of an inquest ordered by County Executive Dow Constantine into Duffy Jr.’s death.
Inquests, fact-finding hearings conducted before a district-court jury, are routinely called to determine the causes and circumstances of any death involving a member of a King County law-enforcement agency while performing his or her duties.
Inquest jurors answer a series of interrogatories to determine the significant factual issues involved in the case, and it is not their purpose to determine whether any person or agency is civilly or criminally liable. Jurors are allowed to question witnesses during an inquest.
Lawyers representing Duffy Jr.’s family, the King County Prosecutor’s Office and the city of Tukwila are participating in the inquest.
Duffy Jr.’s family has filed a lawsuit seeking at least $15 million in damages from the city.
When Tukwila police showed up at Duffy Jr.’s home, they were met by Patrice Brown and her father and mother, who quickly returned home after being notified about the bizarre 911 call, she testified. Duffy Jr. was on the front porch, holding a golf club.
When Duffy Jr. refused the police officers’ orders to put down the club, his mother snatched it from his hands, Patrice Brown said.
Deanne Mills, Duffy Jr.’s mother, and Brown told officers he was mentally ill and off his medications, Brown testified.
Officers asked to talk to Duffy Jr. inside the home, and the man’s family followed. When Duffy Jr. kept insisting that Brown and Mills weren’t his family, things got “pretty loud” among family members, Brown testified.
“There was crying, there was screaming,” Brown said, adding that police then asked Mills’ husband to take the women outside.
Before leaving, Mills “asked officers to refrain from using a Taser on her son as she knew that he would be extremely frightened under the circumstances,” according to the family’s lawsuit.
“As soon as we went outside we heard rumbling and Taser noises,” Brown said. “The next thing you know, I saw my brother running out the door. He jumped over the steps and he broke his leg.”
Despite “his obvious injuries,” the officers again used a Taser on Duffy Jr., the family contends in the lawsuit.
Medics were called, and Duffy Jr. was put inside an emergency-medical vehicle for about 40 minutes; during that time, his relatives weren’t allowed to see or speak to him, the suit says.
“His eyes were real low. I seen him breathing, like it was hard for him to breathe,” Brown said in court. “His lips were real dark. I remember asking the medical people: Did they give him any pain medication to make him look like that?”
One officer told Mills her son was “sleeping” — but according to the lawsuit, Duffy Jr. “was already dead at this time and the Tukwila Police were concealing this fact from the family.”
According to a news release issued by Tukwila police shortly after the incident, Duffy Jr. began to experience “breathing difficulties” while he was in an ambulance and died later at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Also expected to testify during the several-day inquest hearing are additional members of Duffy Jr.’s family, Tukwila police officers and the county’s chief medical examiner.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-474-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ Seattle Sullivan.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.