BANGOR, Maine — A local man with a history of mental illness and drug use was reportedly shocked with a stun gun by a police officer last week and later died at Eastern Maine Medical Center after having two heart attacks, his parents said this week.
The Maine attorney general’s office is investigating the death because Phillip A. McCue, 28, of Bangor died in custody, Brenda Kielty, a special assistant in the attorney general’s office, said Thursday afternoon.
“He was stricken after [he was] in custody and died about a week later in the ICU,” she said, referring to EMMC’s intensive care unit.
She said she did not know how McCue was injured, including whether it was from a Taser.
When asked about the Sept. 12 incident involving McCue, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Thursday he was allowed to release “nothing,” but he did say McCue was not charged with any crime and was taken to the hospital.
“It’s an attorney general case at this point,” the sergeant said. “It’s under investigation.”
McCue’s father and stepmother, Michael and Patty McCue of Jackson, said the state medical examiner’s office told them a Bangor police officer had stunned McCue with a Taser.
“He was Tased. It was an altercation with police,” Patty McCue said of her stepson. “He was out in front of the fire department and had a cardiac arrest. He was outside hollering.”
Phillip McCue was taken to EMMC and remained there in a coma and alone until his father and stepmother learned two days later that he might have been arrested and started looking for him, Patty McCue said.
After calling Bangor police, the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office and The Acadia Hospital, where Phillip McCue had been treated for his mental illness in the past, Michael McCue placed a call to EMMC.
“He was put on hold for a long time, then he got transferred to the intensive care unit,” Patty McCue said. “We were told he had a complete cardiac arrest. We went immediately to the hospital and they told us he was admitted on the 12th.”
She added, with obvious anger in her voice, that her stepson “was in the hospital for two and a half days and nobody [in his family] knew he was there. The nurses felt this poor kid was homeless and didn’t have any family.”
Even though his father was listed as his next of kin in his hospital file, the family wasn’t contacted, Patty McCue said.
Their son never woke up. Phillip McCue, who had no known heart problems but was a recreational drug user, according to his family, had a second heart attack Monday and died at the hospital.
“We don’t know if it was anxiety, drugs or if the Taser caused anything — we just don’t know,” Patty McCue said.
Her stepson was an eyewitness to the June 9, 2011, death of Bangor resident Melvin F. Abreu, 28, at an apartment on Fourth Street, and his former roommate said Thursday that McCue had recently been hanging out with a known user of the synthetic drug bath salts, and possibly was using the drug himself.
His body was taken to the medical examiner’s office in Augusta for an autopsy.
“This had already been arranged by the state” as part of their investigation, Patty McCue said, adding that the family learned of the attorney general’s probe when they took his body away.
The cause of McCue’s death is pending the results of toxicology tests, Mark Belserene of the medical examiner’s office said Thursday.
“It’s an investigation,” he said, referring questions to the attorney general’s office. “It was called in by the [emergency room]” at EMMC.
Kielty said that the investigation is following established protocol.
“It is routine,” she said. “Any in-custody death is reviewed by us. He wasn’t officially in custody [because he had not been charged with a crime], but he was stricken after being taken into custody.”
The Bangor Police Department’s Taser guns can produce a 50,000-volt shock when used and are capable of incapacitating a person for five seconds.
The McCues have asked the police department for a copy of the police report and even hired a private investigator, but have been told they will have to wait until after the investigation is completed.
“The only information we have right now is from the medical examiner,” Patty McCue said. “I’m burying my son on Saturday and we don’t know what caused my son to die.”
Phillip McCue leaves behind a 4-year-old son. His funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Unity Centre for the Performing Arts, 42 Depot St., Unity. Afterward, he will be buried at Center Cemetery in East Thorndike.
BDN reporter Nick McCrea contributed to this story.