Christopher Allen Tull was on his third day of a crack cocaine binge when he died in police custody after being shocked by a Taser on Interstate 75, Cincinnati police said Sunday.
Police say Tull, 36, who is from Madison, Ind., but also had a Fairmount address, may have also swallowed a rock of crack cocaine just hours before his death Saturday night.
Autopsy findings - including preliminary toxicology results - are expected today. Hamilton County Coroner O'dell Owens said he wouldn't be surprised if drugs are found in the man's system.
"Typically in a Taser death, there is cocaine or another drug involved," Owens said.
The death remains under investigation, but police officials concluded that Officer Tim Pappas did everything right. They made that conclusion after viewing footage of the encounter taken by the police cruiser's camera. And they plan to use the footage at the next police academy as an example of what to do when faced with a resistant subject.
"He is a model police officer," Chief Thomas Streicher said Sunday. "I could not ask for a better performance from anyone with this police department."
Tull, a mason and father of a daughter, died about 8 p.m. Saturday, 45 minutes after being shocked by a Taser near the Ezzard Charles Drive interchange. He had been acting erratically and was darting in and out of traffic on foot for about 30 minutes, according to more than 60 calls that flooded dispatchers.
Pappas was the first officer on scene at 7:15 p.m.
Footage from the cruiser camera shows the following:
Tull, clad in a black shirt and light colored shorts, is kneeling in the middle of the highway. He is clinging to the headrest of a dark convertible whose driver had stopped to help him. The woman is trying to keep her distance from Tull. She is leaning away, nearly in the passenger seat. (According to police, she believed she was being attacked.) Several other people are gathered around the vehicle in an attempt to help the woman.
Pappas approaches and orders Tull away from the vehicle. Tull does not respond.
"This is called resistive tension," Streicher said as the footage rolled.
Tull drops his right hand to his side, but continues to hang onto the headrest with his left arm.
The sharp crack of the Taser is heard. The officer is off-camera. Tull cries out, then falls over. Pappas rushes to handcuff him and struggles to pull Tull to his feet.
"I swear, I can't get up," Tull says. "I'm trying."
With the help of a civilian, Pappas pulls Tull to his feet.
"You're going to walk to the side of the road or you're going to be Tased again," Pappas says. Civilians help carry Tull out of camera view.
A second cruiser arrives. The second cruiser's camera shows Tull lying on the side of the highway. Pappas is instructing civilians to keep the man propped up in a sitting position. A moment later, Tull asks to lie down and Pappas lets him.
Pappas, a CPR trainer, did the right thing by keeping Tull upright, Streicher said. Streicher also commended Pappas' actions in subduing Tull. Pappas was the only one at the scene, and was worried that Tull could hurt someone there, or dart back into traffic, Streicher said.
"I can't think of a more dangerous position to be in," Streicher said. "A lot of things were done extremely well here."
Police found Tull's car at a Central Parkway motel later that evening. A woman there who had been with Tull all day said he had been smoking crack since at least 10 a.m. The woman told police Tull began acting paranoid around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., swallowed the drugs and left.
Tull walked to the highway near Hopple Street and hitched a ride south toward the Ezzard Charles ramp. He hid in the back seat. He told the driver he was being chased, police said.
The driver let Tull out near the ramp and police believe Tull walked into traffic in the northbound lanes, causing panic.
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