State to probe Ohio inmate's death in 2007

Published:

TOLEDO (AP) -- The Ohio Attorney General's Office is investigating the 2007 death of a man who died shortly after authorities shocked him three times with a stun gun.

Officers in Fremont in northern Ohio arrested Craig Burdine, 37, on Aug. 11, 2007, after responding to a call about a fight.

Burdine struggled with officers at the scene and resisted and fought with deputies at the Sandusky County jail before they shocked him with a stun gun three times, according to court documents.

Burdine died shortly after. A coroner found that the death was accidental and caused largely by his drug intoxication.

Burdine's family disputed the ruling and hired their own expert who contended that Burdine died of asphyxia after his neck was severely compressed while he was restrained.

A 2009 lawsuit filed by Burdine's family alleging excessive force against the sheriff's office, Fremont officers and others was dismissed, but the death is still under scrutiny.

The Attorney General's Office was appointed to serve as special prosecutor in the case on Thursday at the request of Sandusky County Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Stierwalt, who said his office had a conflict of interest because his investigator is the father of one of the sheriff's personnel involved in the case.

The agency is determining whether a crime occurred and whether prosecution should be pursued, attorney general spokesman Dan Tierney told The Toledo Blade, (http://bit.ly/17aCanc).

Teresa Grigsby, a Toledo attorney who represented Sandusky County and county officials, said previous reviews by local authorities, including Fremont police, found nothing to suggest "any criminal wrongdoing."

U.S. District Judge James Carr's decision to dismiss the family's lawsuit against local authorities was upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April.

A three-judge panel of the court found that the officers being sued acted reasonably in the given circumstances and did not use excessive force.

"(Burdine) was not strangled to death by anybody in the jail, and the expert testimony is clear on that point and the 6th Circuit found absolutely no reason to find otherwise," Grigsby said.

Eleven years before his death, Burdine won $600,000 in an excessive force lawsuit against a Port Clinton police officer.

The officer had used a headlock maneuver on him during his arrest on a drunken driving charge.

He suffered "physical and psychological injuries" because of that incident and had hallucinations and nightmares "of being pursued, beaten, and killed by police," according to court filings at the time.

The 2009 lawsuit alleged that officers involved in the circumstances that led to Burdine's death were friends and acquaintances of those sued by Burdine's successful lawsuit in 1996 and that at least one of them knew he was psychologically impaired.

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