A man who died after being tased multiple times by Greenwood police had other medical complications, which had led to swelling in his brain and his death due to natural causes, police said.
Greenwood police began an internal investigation after learning that Charles Todero, 30, was in a coma after an incident with officers on May 29. Todero died Saturday, nearly two weeks after police were called to a downtown street where they said he was behaving dangerously.
Shortly after his death, an autopsy showed that liver disease and Hepatitis C had led to swelling in Todero’s brain and were the natural causes of his death, Greenwood Police Chief John Laut said.
The emergency room doctor at the hospital also told police officials that the officer’s use of a Taser had nothing to do with Todero’s medical condition, Laut said.
Police attempted to use a Taser on Todero 16 times that day because he was not responding or following police orders after each use and continued to try to get up, Laut said. In police body camera footage taken in the moments after Todero was put in handcuffs, a police officer can be heard telling an officer who had just arrived that Todero held up his Bible and was claiming to be Jesus Christ as he was being tased.
While officers were discussing his name, his care and what could be causing his suspected psychotic episode, he was laying on the side of the street and correcting them, saying he was Jesus.
Family members had questioned whether the use of the Taser led to Todero going into cardiac arrest. During the time he was in the hospital, his heart would start and stop, they said.
The Marion County Coroner’s Office is awaiting the results of toxicology testing to finalize Todero’s cause of death. A test showed that Todero had previously used marijuana.
The police department is continuing its internal investigation and has one other witness to speak with. But police officials wanted to be transparent and get information out to the public, Laut said.
“We did not want that day to happen,” Laut said. “Our officers have done nothing wrong.”
On May 29, Greenwood police were called about Todero walking in and out of traffic on Madison Avenue at Camby Street, near downtown, and claiming to be Jesus Christ, Laut said.
Multiple callers said he was intentionally trying to be hit by vehicles, and cars were slamming the brakes and swerving to avoid hitting him, detective Doug Roller said.
Todero was incoherent and would not listen to officers. When he began walking toward traffic again, Lt. Brian Blackwell, a longtime veteran of the police department, reached out to try to stop him. He wouldn’t stop, and Blackwell warned Todero that he would use his Taser.
“We had to do something. We had to intervene,” Laut said.
Blackwell discharged the Taser 16 times over the course of about three minutes that day, Laut said. But both prongs of the Taser had not struck Todero, meaning it was not as effective, Greenwood police assistant chief Matt Fillenwarth said.
A Taser has two prongs, which both need to be in someone’s skin to connect and produce the charge that sends a pulse to the body, seizing the person’s muscles. In this case, only one prong had entered Todero’s skin, Fillenwarth said.
Blackwell touched the dart to Todero’s thigh, completing the charge. Other officers had arrived at the scene by that time, and their body cameras caught part of the incident. Blackwell was not wearing a body camera because the police department had not equipped lieutenants with body cameras, Laut said. Greenwood police cars do not have cameras on their dashboard, he said.
Officers don’t typically need to use their Taser that many times, but in this case, when Blackwell stopped using the Taser, Todero tried to get up again, Laut said.
Once he was in handcuffs, officers did not use the Taser on Todero, Fillenwarth said. They immediately began tending to him, asking him if he had taken any drugs and what was going on.
Blackwell can be heard on the video encouraging Todero, who he had come to know through the years, to tell him if he had taken any drugs. Police on the scene planned to ask the hospital for Todero to be held for 72 hours for a mental health evaluation.
“What have you taken, bud?” Blackwell said on the video. “We go way back. Talk to me, Charlie. What did you take so we can fix you and you can go home after you go to the hospital?” the video captured.
The officers had called for medical help, and while in the ambulance, Todero went into cardiac arrest, Laut said. Once he arrived at the hospital, he was in full cardiac arrest, he said.
“Lt. Brian Blackwell and the other officers did not do anything improper. We have investigated it,” Laut said.
Family members said Todero’s organs shut down and he was placed in a medically-induced coma and on a ventilator. Hospital staff told police that he was put into a coma because he had remained combative, Greenwood police said. For two weeks, his heart would stop repeatedly and eventually developed an infection. The family chose to remove life support, and Todero died Monday at the hospital.
Laut called the incident unfortunate and said Todero was already in poor health and had Hepatitis C. During his stay at the hospital, doctors considered trying to get him a liver transplant, Laut said.
Laut said he has reached out to Todero’s mother and brother and will continue to do so.