Bangor police release report on man’s death after being hit with Taser

Phillip A. McCue
Courtesy of Facebook
Phillip A. McCue
Posted May 30, 2013, at 4:25 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The use of a Taser by Bangor police last September did little to slow a local man on synthetic bath salts who was growling and screaming profanities and death threats at police, according to an investigative report released this week to the Bangor Daily News.

Shortly after hitting Phillip A. McCue of Bangor with the Taser, police handcuffed and secured the feet of the still struggling and kicking man and then he “went limp” and had a hard time breathing, the responding officers said in the report the Bangor Daily News received through the Freedom of Access Act.

The 28-year-old McCue went limp because he suffered a heart attack, his autopsy showed.

Bangor rescue personnel, who were watching the Sept. 12, 2012, events unfold from across the street, immediately responded and CPR was performed on McCue, who was revived as his ambulance arrived at Eastern Maine Medical Center, the newly released police report states.

McCue, who police discovered had been smoking bath salts, died in police custody at the hospital five days later.

Police released no details in the eight months since McCue’s death in police custody because the incident was under investigation. The Maine attorney general’s office deemed earlier this month that there was no basis for an investigation, but police remained mum because McCue’s father, Michael McCue of Jackson, has filed a notice of intent to sue the city for failing to provide proper care to his son after he was hit with the Taser.

“We’re not at liberty to comment because of the pending lawsuit,” Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Thursday.

The police report includes statements from the five police officers who were involved in the incident, which started as a noise complaint at 18 First St. involving McCue.

Five firefighters who witnessed the scene on Main Street and were interviewed by police, as well as the investigative reports of a detective and Lt. Tom Reagan, the department’s bath salts expert, are part of the report. The Taser use log was not included, so a second Freedom of Access request was filed on Thursday requesting it.

McCue had two heart attacks — one shortly after the Taser was used to subdue him and the second five days later at the hospital, according to his father.

“One of the concerns that we have is the inconsistencies,” Michael McCue said Thursday. “They say CPR was started immediately, but it’s not consistent with the amount of brain damage he had. We need to look at the time frame of when he was Tasered and when he was revived.”

McCue’s autopsy shows he died on Sept. 17, 2012, as a result of complications from overdosing on synthetic bath salts, more specifically a form of the lab-made drug known as Alpha-PVP that arrived in Maine last fall and resulted in the death of another bath salts user in Bangor the same week, Reagan says in his report.

McCue got high with a good friend, a known “bath salts abuser” who was located by Officer Josh Kuhn the day after McCue overdosed. He told the officer that he and McCue had consumed about $50 worth of the drug — a white, powdery substance known on the streets of Bangor as monkey dust — on the night McCue was stunned.

“[He] admitted that between the two of them, they had smoked approximately half a gram of monkey dust in one sitting,” Kuhn’s report states. “I asked [him] about McCue’s dust habits and he stated that McCue’s drug abuse has drastically increased within the last week. He told us that McCue has consumed approximately $70 to $80 worth of monkey dust on his own every day for the last week.”

McCue’s autopsy states he went to Acadia Hospital on Sept. 3, 2012, seeking bath salts treatment and that he suffered from up to 10 medical ailments that are often associated with bath salts addiction, including acute rhabdomyolysis, which results in the destruction of facial muscle.

Noise complaint

Officer Kim Donnell was the first to answer a noise complaint at the First Street apartment house where McCue had been staying for the last week, the newly released report states. She arrived about 8:30 p.m. and spoke with the building manager, who reported that McCue had been upstairs yelling for about a half hour. A neighbor said, “Phillip was yelling at the walls and not directly at anyone present,” former Detective Erik Tall wrote in his report.

McCue was swearing and saying things such as, “Don’t bother me” and “Stop butting in,” the neighbor reported.

Donnell called for backup after McCue jumped from a third-floor balcony, landing about halfway down the stairs, and then burst through the entranceway, He ran past her and left the building.

A foot chase ensued and police eventually corralled McCue on Main Street when he tripped and was tackled by Kuhn, who was joined by Officer David Farrar and Donnell.

A returning firetruck blocked traffic on one end of the city block and Officer Wade Betters, who was promoted to a sergeant on Wednesday, used his police cruiser to protect the group from traffic. Betters said McCue was “growling and swearing at the officers” when he approached them.

“I warned McCue that I was going to Taser him if he didn’t comply; McCue continued to resist,” Donnell said in the report. “I deployed my Taser X26 … shooting the probes into the right side of his lower back. During the Taser cycle, McCue provided me with his right arm behind his back. I took control of his right arm as the cycle completed.”

Officer Christopher Blanchard “arrived on scene and assisted in controlling McCue who had again become uncooperative,” Donnell said. She removed the Taser probes as they attempted to stand McCue up, but he began kicking and pinched Blanchard’s forearm and wrist in his ankles as the officer tried to restrain his legs.

Donnell eventually was able to get a pair of FlexCuffs — similar to pull ties — on McCue’s ankles.

“McCue continued to struggle, fight and kick at us; we tied his leg and wrist restraints together before lifting him off the ground and carrying him to the rear of Officer Blanchard’s cruiser,” she said. “As we began placing him into the rear seat, I proceeded to the other side of the cruiser to help pull him in, when McCue’s body went limp.”

Moments later, the officer said, a Bangor fire ambulance pulled across the street and McCue was loaded onto a stretcher.

“The tie between McCue’s legs and wrists had been cut and I proceeded into the ambulance,” Donnell said. “I removed the handcuffs from McCue’s wrists so he could be turned over to lay on his back and Bangor Fire-Rescue began to perform CPR.”

McCue’s father and stepmother, Patty McCue, say they believe CPR should have started sooner. They said the emergency medical technicians had to ask for the handcuffs to be removed.

“He was completely brain dead and that surprised the doctors and is not consistent with beginning CPR right away,” Michael McCue said.

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