Charles Murphy was reunited with relatives less than three months ago after being separated from them for years. He was just getting to know them when he died Wednesday after a struggle with Toledo police at his half-brother's house at 426 East Central Ave.
“We don't know if there was any brutality on the part of the police officers, but we need to follow up with that,” Fred Wainscott, a half-brother, said yesterday. “I feel he died because of what happened in that kitchen.”
Preliminary autopsy results indicate that Mr. Murphy, 65, who spent 24 years in a group home near Burgoon, Ohio, had multiple medical problems that could be exacerbated by physical exertion.
“A battery of further tests, including microscopic examination and toxicology, are needed to shed further light on exactly which of these diseases is the cause of death,” said Dr. Cynthia Beisser, deputy Lucas County coroner.
She said no significant trauma was found on Mr. Murphy's body, but Fred Wainscott, of Toledo, said he saw cuts and swelling on his face.
Jack Wainscott, who lives at the East Central address, said the coroner's office told him Mr. Murphy had an enlarged heart, and the incident may have triggered a heart attack.
Police Chief Mike Navarre said that, based on preliminary information from the coroner's office and interviews conducted after the incident, “there was no wrongdoing on the part of the officers.”
The investigation is continuing and will not be complete until a final ruling from the coroner.
Mr. Murphy suffered from moderate mental retardation, diabetes, emphysema, and chronic heart failure and was on several medications, said Deb Yenrick, superintendent of the Sandusky County board of mental retardation and developmental disabilities.
She said Mr. Murphy worked in one of the agency's senior programs and part-time at Sandco Industries. He was a member of the Fremont Senior Center.
“He was very well liked here. He was generally a nice guy,” she said, adding that her agency is investigating the death.
On Wednesday Mr. Murphy became upset because of a situation with money. At the group home, he received spending money weekly. He was given money when he left the home Dec. 12 for a 60-day trial stay with Jack Wainscott, but he spent it within two weeks, Ms. Yenrick said.
He asked the Sandusky County board for more money but was denied. He was upset because he didn't want to return to the home.
After talking with his service coordinator in the morning, he appeared calm.
About 2 p.m., the coordinator received a call from the group home reporting that Mr. Murphy was “having difficulty” at the Wainscott home. Board authorities called the house and learned Mr. Murphy was threatening family members. They said to call police if the threats continued.
Jack Wainscott said he hit his half-brother in the forehead and he calmed down. But the threats continued, and police were called about 3:15 p.m. On the way officers received information that Mr. Murphy was violent and called for backup. At the house officers Paul Cunningham and Nora Mugler learned about the threats and saw Mr. Murphy pacing - which relatives said was a habit.
Lt. Rick Reed said Mr. Murphy put on gloves and came into the kitchen throwing punches. The officers used aerosol Mace, which had no effect. Mr. Murphy then grabbed Officer Cunningham in a bear hug. The officers wrestled him to the floor and the three were on the floor when Sgt. Richard Moreno and Officer Brian Young arrived.
The officers used two sets of handcuffs linked together on Mr. Murphy's hands. Police said Mr. Murphy kicked with his feet, and the officers used ankle restraints. The officers then noticed the tips of Mr. Murphy's ears had turned blue, checked for a pulse, and found one.
They removed the restraints and called for medical assistance. They saw him turn blue, checked for a pulse, found none, and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the lieutenant said.
Mr. Murphy was pronounced dead at 4:13 p.m. at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. Relatives said he died at the house.
Family members present during the incident said they didn't see what happened. Jack Wainscott said he heard thumps and saw Mr. Murphy's head on the floor.
“The only thing I heard out of Charlie were two deep breaths,” he said, adding that authorities should have acted faster in the rescue effort.