Natasha McKenna died on February 8, 2015, after Fairfax County, Virginia, police shocked her four times with a Taser while attempting to move her to another facility. McKenna, a 5’ 4” black woman, was 37 years old. On Tuesday, the county’s chief prosecutor announced that he will not bring charges against the six deputies who were involved in her death.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh wrote the following in his report on McKenna’s death:
I conclude that SERT members and deputies acted lawfully and reasonably under the circumstances in attempting to restrain and control Ms. McKenna. The deputies were tasked with a cell extraction involving a severely mentally ill woman with a history of recent violence and resistance toward police officers, deputies and medical personnel. Ms. McKenna’s recent combative behavior included biting, scratching, spitting, kicking and punching. Everyone who dealt with her in these instances, medial personnel as well as police and deputies, described her as being exceptionally strong, irrationally combative and seemingly indefatigable….
There is no evidence that any of the deputes acted maliciously, sadistically or with the intent to punish or cause harm to Ms. McKenna at any point in the struggle. To the contrary, they did their best, under very difficult circumstances, to restrain, control and prevent Ms. McKenna from injuring herself or others….
Ms. McKenna’s death was a tragic accident. It is my legal opinion that there is not probable cause, much less proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that anyone involved in this case committed a crime.
The April autopsy report cited McKenna’s cause of death as “excited delirium associated with physical restraint including use of conductive energy device, contributing: Schizophrenia and Bi-Polar Disorder.” Excited delirium is a controversial diagnosis that the American Civil Liberties Union says is problematic, especially as it is used nearly exclusively to describe the deaths of people who battle with the police.
“I know of no reputable medical organization—certainly not the AMA [American Medical Association] or the APA [American Psychological Association]—that recognizes excited delirium as a medical or mental-health condition,” the ACLU’s Eric Balaban told NPR. He also said that law enforcement officials are using the diagnosis “as a means of white-washing what may be excessive use of force and inappropriate use of control techniques by officers during an arrest.”
On Thursday, the sheriff’s office released a 48-minute video of the February 3 cell extraction that shows the men attempting to restrain McKenna before eventually using the Taser. She loses consciousness shortly after, but the deputies don’t appear to call for help until 12 minutes later.
Watch the full video below.