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In Wake Of Zehm Death, City Employees To Undergo Training On "Excited Delirium"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 21, 2007

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON--One year and one day after Spokane Police officers fatally restrained Otto Zehm, city officials announced that police and emergency personnel would now be required to undergo training to better understand and respond to people who experience a condition known as "excited delirium", which is characterized by agitation, excitability, confusion, and paranoia.

At a Monday press conference, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, Mayor Dennis Hession and Fire Chief Bobby Williams said police officers, firefighters, paramedics, dispatchers and ambulance drivers would start the training this Friday. Some Spokane County Sheriff's deputies would also sit in on the training.

While the mental health community does not officially recognize the term "excited delirium", Spokane County Medical Examiner Sally Aiken determined that Zehm died on March 20, 2006 from a heart attack "while restrained in a prone position for excited delirium" two days earlier.

Following up on a 9-1-1 report of a man acting "in a bizarre manner" at a bank ATM, police followed Zehm, 36, into a Spokane convenience. Video from security videos showed one officer confronting Zehm, who had schizophrenia, striking him with a nightstick and knocking him to the floor. Other officers joined in, restraining Zehm, handcuffing and hogtying him, and shocking him repeatedly with a Taser stun gun.

At some point, officers placed a clear plastic mask with a nickel-sized hole over Zehm's face to prevent him from spitting. After Zehm was restrained on his stomach for about 15 minutes, officers discovered that he had stopped breathing.

During the press conference, Chief Kirkpatrick said that the department's policies have been changed to limit the use of Tasers and to use cloth hoods instead of plastic masks to prevent suspects from spitting on officers.

"Hopefully, better training will prevent future Otto Zehm cases," said Breean Beggs, an attorney with the Spokane Center for Justice who is representing the Zehm family. "I applaud them asking, 'What can we do better in the future?' That is good news for everyone."

"Otto Zehm: Spokane Man Died After Scuffle With Police" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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