Police release surveillance tape of struggle with Otto Zehm - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Police release surveillance tape of struggle with Otto Zehm

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SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Police Department released the surveillance tape that shows Otto Zehm's struggle with police. 

The tape shows Zehm, a mentally disabled janitor, apparently in retreat during a confrontation with police in Spokane. An officer is seen repeatedly striking Zehm with a baton.  He also used a taser in an effort to gain control over Zehm.  The officer said Zehm had a two liter bottle of soda in his hand, something that isn't clear on the tape.  According to Police Chief Jim Nicks, the officer said Zehm lunged at him and declined to follow instructions.

About 16 minutes after his confrontation with officers, Zehm reportedly stopped breathing.  Officers said they had Zehm on his side to assist him in his breathing, although the surveillance video does not clearly show that.  Paramedics gave him medical attention by taking out the taser probes.  They left, but returned about ten minutes later when he started having problems breathing.  They administered CPR because Zehm wasn't breathing, then rushed him to a downtown hospital.  Zehm fell into a coma and died two days later.

Two months after the scuffle, the investigation concluded that Zehm died of heart failure as a result of Excited Delirium.  The Medical Examiner said it wasn't the batons or the taser shocks that killed him. Excited Delirium is described as a disturbance in consciousness and a change in mental status over a short amount of time.  Victims have a reduced ability to focus on their surroundings.  They become disoriented and may, in some cases, hallucinate.  Delirious people often, according to experts, become frightened and defiant when confronted.

Police initially became aware of Zehm before he even entered the ZipTrip store on N. Division Street on March 18.  Two women said they were at a nearby ATM when someone matching Zehm's description walked up to them.  They said they were afraid Zehm was going to rob them.

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