A 30-year-old man has died after suffering “a medical emergency” while in custody at the Jamestown Police Station, where he was shot with an electronic stun gun after he fought with officers, but authorities said late Sunday they were not sure what caused his death.
Charles A. Baker Jr., of Jamestown, was arrested Saturday. While he was being booked, he allegedly began fighting with police, and an electric Taser gun was used to subdue him. About two hours later, Baker experienced what authorities called “a medical event” that prompted police to have him transported to WCA Hospital in Jamestown, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy is set for 9:30 a.m. today in the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office, Buffalo.
Authorities said they hope to have more answers once the results of the autopsy are available.
Baker was arrested following a traffic stop earlier Saturday, though police have not disclosed details about why he was stopped and what charges were placed against him.
The Buffalo News first learned about Baker’s death from the friend of a fellow inmate in the Jamestown police lockup.
The fellow inmate’s friend told The News that Baker, who was handcuffed at the time, went into cardiac arrest after he was zapped with a Taser electric stun gun. Baker reportedly had become belligerent after fruitlessly demanding a drink of water, the friend said.
“It’s an ongoing investigation, and we have no comment at this time,” Chautauqua County Coroner John C. Sixbey said before hanging up on a reporter who asked if he could confirm details of Baker’s death.
A shift commander at the Jamestown Police Department also hung up on a reporter seeking information about the case. He said Capt. Robert Samuelson would release information today.
A nursing supervisor at WCA Hospital said, “We are not allowed to discuss the case of anyone who comes to our emergency room.”
The friend said Baker was arrested on a parole violation warrant at about 3 p.m. Saturday at the Family Dollar store in Brooklyn Square, a shopping plaza on South Main Street in Jamestown.
After being placed in a cell, Baker reportedly demanded a drink of water, since there was no water in the cell.
The fellow prisoner told his friend that the toilet had been disconnected.
After Baker became more irate over the lack of water, an officer zapped him with a Taser, the source said. A Taser drives probes into a victim and delivers a charge equal to about 50,000 volts of electricity.
According to the website of the manufacturer, Taser International, the probes “carry fine wires that connect to the target and deliver the Taser into his neural network. These pulses ... overwhelm the normal nerve traffic, causing involuntary muscle contractions and impairment of motor skills.”
A 2009 study by a group of doctors, including Dr. Ronald M. Moscati of the University at Buffalo department of emergency medicine, did not support a theory that Tasers harm a person’s heart rhythms.
Baker, a former Buffalo resident, had been sent to state prison three times for selling narcotics, all in Chautauqua County, according to the state prison website.
“That’s no reason to kill him,” the source who reported the death said.
Baker went to state prison in December 2003 for fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. Despite a sentence of two to four years, he was paroled in July 2004.
Baker later was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and was sentenced to three years. He was paroled in June 2010.
In October 2011, Baker again went to prison, this time for third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. Sentenced to three years, he was paroled in June 2012.