Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tru TV Captures Tragedy as Young Suspect Chokes to Death on Bag of Marijuana

A young man died in Panama City Beach this week because pot is still illegal in Florida. Attempting to avoid an arrest for possession of marijuana, he stuffed a plastic bag full of weed down his throat and choked to death. And Tru TV was there to capture it all.

Yes, he died because he made stupid choices, but he would be alive if our laws were more sophisticated.

Andrew Grande was only 23 and got into an altercation and then a physical disturbance with his girlfriend last Friday. The police responded to the alleged assault, only to find out that the young man was fleeing.

The preliminary reports indicate that deputies caught up to Grande and confronted him, placing handcuffs on one of his wrists. But he struggled, and the police allege he attempted to place something in his mouth.

A video recording exists of part of the encounter, and one of the videos opens with an officer shouting: “Spit it Out.”

The recording shows Grande on the ground while three deputies hold him down. He is wheezing.

The rest of the incident is caught on two video recordings for Tru TV and on a sheriff’s dashboard camera. A three-person crew was riding with deputies during the incident and caught most of it. The Sheriff’s Office released the recordings Friday. Tru TV officials did not return calls seeking comment.

One of the Bay County Sheriff’s deputies is heard talking by radio with a dispatcher.
“He swallowed something,” the deputy says. Grande tries, desperately, to talk. The deputies have Grande’s right hand behind his back. He attempts to get up.

Deputies tell him to stop resisting or they will tase him, but he gets to his feet. They tase him and he immediately rips the stun gun’s prongs out of his chest. He was choking to death. He had something else on his mind.
He falls to the ground. While seated, he puts his hand in his mouth and down his throat in what appears to be an attempt to vomit. When that does not succeed, Grande slaps his hand against the concrete and then both of his hands against his chest.
“I can’t breathe,” he says. “I can’t breathe.”
The deputies perform the Heimlich maneuver, but they cannot get the object out of his throat.
“Let us help you, man,” one of them shouts. “Hang in there.”

After emergency medical technicians arrived, they removed the bag of marijuana from his throat with forceps, officials said. Grande was taken to Bay Medical Center and pronounced dead at the hospital, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. An autopsy was performed Friday afternoon and the preliminary cause of death is asphyxia due to obstruction of the airway by a foreign material, officials said.

Bay County Sheriff’s officials said three deputies were involved in the incident, Sgt. Billy Byrd, Deputy Rick Williams and Deputy David Higgins. At a press conference Friday afternoon, Sheriff Frank McKeithen said he felt bad for Grande’s family and for the deputies involved. I bet.

“These guys watched this person die and there was absolutely nothing they could do about it,” McKeithen said. To live with this forever, not easy.

He said the deputies did not realize at first that Grande was choking and they initially believed he was overdosing. Which explains the use of the taser, how then?

“It could have been handled by compliance,” McKeithen said. “It pretty much ended up with him taking his own life.” Not really. Hollow excuse. Obviously, he wanted to live. He did not even want to go to jail. Thus, he was trying to hide the pot. So he did not 'take his own life.'
The bottom line and the real message is how stupid prohibition is. If pot were not foolishly illegal, subjecting someone to arrest for nominal possession, maybe Andrew Grande would be alive today.

1 comment:

  1. this is freaking terrible. over weed, a healthy young man dies. wrong wrong wrong