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Heart attack caused death of jailed ex-deputy

POSTED October 9, 2009 10:39 p.m.
An investigation by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office has ruled that the death of Craig Prescott while in the custody of the Stanislaus County Jail, was accidental and not the result of being shot with a Taser.
A pathologist report states the cause of death for the 38-year-old Modesto man was from “hypertensive heart disease” with a contributing factor of “moderate cardiovascular strain from heightened physical activity.”
“From a layman’s point-of-view, the decedent over-exerted himself and had a heart attack,” Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said in a report to Sheriff Adam Christianson.
In the 17-page report, Fladager said the investigation into Prescott’s death did not reveal any criminal acts by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies working at the jail and that the matter was closed.
“Even assuming that the deputies’ use of physical strength to restrain Prescott, the use of the Taser, or even the use of the restraints themselves caused Prescott to engage in heightened physical activity, the deputies were acting in a lawful manner and in a lawful way,” Fladager said in the report. “The pathologist’s medical determination means that Prescott died of natural causes and not at the ‘hands of another.’”
Prescott, a former Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputy, was booked into jail on April 7 and charged with two felony counts of stalking and making criminal threats against his wife, who had a restraining order against Prescott.
According to the district attorney’s investigation, Prescott had been exhibiting bizarre behavior in the days leading up to his arrest and had been confrontational with deputies from the moment he was incarcerated. Prescott became combative with the jailers on April 11 when they were attempting to move him to a safety cell.
Because of Prescott’s immense size and his martial arts expertise, several deputies were used for the extraction.
During the extraction Prescott fought with the jailers and refused to comply with their orders, the district attorney’s office said.
He was struck at least twice with the probes from Taser guns and shot once with a pepperball gun, before the deputies could restrain him, the report states.
Once out of the cell, Prescott was treated by the jail’s medical staff and was given a shot of Ativan to calm him down. He was then moved into the safety cell. The pathologist’s report said the Ativan was not a contributing factor in Prescott’s death.
According to the report, Prescott continued to struggle with the deputies and was struck with a Taser again.
It was when the deputies were removing the restraints that Prescott’s body went limp. Medical staff were called and they found him not breathing and with a weak pulse. He was rushed to Doctors Medical Center, where two days later he was declared brain dead and taken off life support by his family.
The death of an inmate while in custody has to be reported to the local district attorney’s office, which conducts its own investigation into the death.
Prescott’s death launched a six-month long investigation that was based on law enforcement reports, medical records, witness statements, and the autopsy reports.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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