Man’s death ruled homicide
51-year-old struggled with hospital staff, police officer
The death of a 51-year-old man who stopped breathing after a struggle with a Dolton police officer and hospital staff at Advocate Christ Medical Center earlier this year has been ruled a homicide, officials said.
Solomon Agwomoh, whose wife, as special administrator of his estate, is suing Dolton over his death, was taken to the Oak Lawn hospital in police custody March 10, suspected of driving under the influence following a two-vehicle crash in Dolton.
The father of four from South Holland apparently became agitated and combative at the hospital after staff attempted to perform a CT scan. As a result, he was shocked with a stun gun, restrained facedown with handcuffs and injected with a cocktail of sedatives, according to a recently released autopsy report.
Within minutes, Agwomoh had stopped breathing, and within the hour he was pronounced dead, according to the report.
The cause of Agwomoh’s death was multifactorial, an assistant medical examiner determined, the result of heart disease involving high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, exacerbated by the stress of a physical struggle.
His death was ruled a homicide, a spokeswoman for the Cook County medical examiner’s office explained, because the struggle involved another person.
“In general, when death involves a combination of natural processes and external factors, preference is given to the nonnatural manner of death,” spokeswoman Natalia Derevyanny said.
Bob Napleton, a lawyer for Agwomoh’s family, called the autopsy results “very revealing” and said they were consistent with allegations made in a lawsuit he filed against Dolton just days after the incident.
“There is no doubt the taser device deployed by the Dolton Police while Mr. Agwomoh was in their care, custody and control played amajor role in Mr. Agwomoh’s death, per the report,” Napleton said in a statement.
Dolton police Chief Robert Collins said he had not seen the autopsy report and did not wish to comment on it. At the time of the incident, Collins said the officer who used the stun gun had done “everything by the book,” and reiterated that he stood by his earlier remarks.
“Everything that I initially told you is still true,” he said. “The officer (was) following his training and acted properly.”
A spokes woman for the hospital declined comment on the incident,
saying it was Advocate’s practice not to comment on “open investigations.”
On the day of his death, Agwomoh, who drove for Chicago Carriage Cab Company, was involved in a crash with another vehicle at the intersection of Cottage Grove Avenue and Sibley Boulevard in Dolton at 12:38 a.m., according to police reports.
Agwomoh was driving west on Sibley in a red Ford Escape taxi when he attempted tomake a “sudden” left turn onto Cottage Grove and was struck by a passing eastbound driver, police reports show. Dolton police, who reviewed dashcam video from Agwomoh’s cab, wrote in their report that the crash happened because he “failed to yield the right away to through traffic.”
Police found Agwomoh unconscious behind the wheel of his car. He eventually regained consciousness, but “appeared to be in a delusional state,” and initially refused to exit his vehicle, according to police reports.
Police found a plastic cup near the driver’s seat area that contained a suspected alcoholic beverage, and as a result, an officer went with Agwomoh to the hospital to conduct a driving under the influence investigation, reports state.
Toxicology reports later showed that Agwomoh’s blood alcohol level was .194, more than twice the legal limit for driving.
While at the hospital, the Dolton officer intervened after Agwomoh became combative with staff, began “yelling odd statements” and tried to force hisway off of a stretcher while en route to a CT scan, according to reports.
The officer attempted to subdue Agwomoh using his stun gun’s “drive stun” function— which involves pressing the device against an individual without deploying its dart-like electrodes —but when that failed, he deployed his stun gun cartridge, reports show.
The stun gun embedded two barbs into Agwomoh’s abdomen but did not incapacitate him, and he lunged at the officer, according to reports. The ensuing struggle ended only after hospital security staff assisted in restraining Agwomoh and medical staff injected him with sedatives, reports show.
Minutes later, Agwomoh lost vital function and was without a pulse. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead 35 minutes later, according to the autopsy report.
Afterward, hospital staff treated the Dolton officer for post-traumatic stress and a hand contusion. He is described in police reports as “visibly shaken,” displaying “uncontrollable shaking in his hands” and “unfit to drive.”
The officer was placed on administrative leave until the conclusion of an investigation into the incident but has since returned to work, Collins said.