he state Medical Examiner's office has released the cause of death for a 24-year-old Cornelius man who died while in police custody.
Daniel Joseph Barga died April 10 from "excited delirium" due to the toxic effects of psilocybin, or hallucinogenic mushrooms, said Dr. Karen Gunson, state medical examiner. Gunson said generally people experiencing excited delirium constantly demonstrate purposeless violent activity; have incoherent speech; don't respond to stimuli, such as pain, in a normal way; experience hallucinations; and die from a misbeat of their heart.
Gunson said Barga would not have died if he hadn't used the mushrooms.
"This is what triggered his peculiar behavior," Gunson said.
Excited delirium cases are generally seen in people who are schizophrenic, experience manic phases or who have used cocaine, methamphetamine or mushrooms, Gunson said. People who are experiencing excited delirium become stimulated, Gunson said, and often become extremely warm with increased sweating.
Gunson said excited delirium can be part of a restraint death, such as when officers restrain suspects on the ground to handcuff them. But, Gunson said, there was no evidence of a restraint death in Barga's case. Gunson said the medical examiner's office carefully reviews what witnesses, police and medics say to determine whether a person died from restraint because there often isn't evidence on the body.
Barga died after being taken into custody following a disturbance in the backyard of a home in a subdivision in the 3000 block of North Irvine Street, police said. The homeowner told Cornelius Officer Mark Jansen that a partially clothed man had confronted him, and was behaving erratically and threatening violence, police said.
Jansen found Barga in the backyard covered with blood and refusing to cooperate, police said. Jansen used a Taser, which delivers a 50,000-volt shock, in an effort to subdue Barga, police said. But the stun-gun had no effect, police said.
Barga reportedly resisted as Jansen tried to wrestle him to the ground and bolted down North Irvine Street toward North 31st Avenue, not following Jansen's commands to stop, police said. Forest Grove Sgt. Dean Foster and Officer Scott King were called to assist and joined the chase after Barga, police said. The officers continued attempts to stop Barga, using Tasers and pepper spray, but he resisted, police said.
Barga then stopped breathing while being taken into custody. Medics transported Barga to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Washington County District Attorney Bob Hermann said last month that based on the investigation there appears to be no criminal conduct on the officers' part. They were cleared to return to duty in mid-April.
County prosecutor Robert Bletko is reviewing the case, which the Washington County Inter-Agency Major Crimes Team is investigating. The investigation will be completed after the district attorney's office receives the autopsy report, which includes results from the toxicology test, Bletko said Monday.
By Rebecca Woolington
May 3, 2010
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State Medical Examiner releases cause of death of toxic effects from psilocybin