You might recall that it was snowing heavily yesterday morning so officers were somewhat surprised when they were sent on the call of a naked man walking on I-75. Here is a video that one driver posted:
Actually this isn’t a call that is that unusual-it just isn’t usually on the freeway. The sergeant and the officers immediately recognized that they were probably dealing with a person who was suffering from what we know as “Excited Delirium Syndrome.” It is a medical condition and is somewhat controversial in the medical literature because there have been cases where police officers who are called to confront this kind of situation and aren’t trained to recognize it use techniques and strategies that exacerbate the situation and the person has a sudden cardiac arrest and dies.
Here is a great article from July 2014 that gives more information about it: “Excited Delirium and the Dual Response: Preventing In Custody Deaths” written by 3 physicians and published in the FBI Bulletin. The victims are usually male (average age 36); have a history of stimulant use like cocaine, meth, PCP, LSD. We actually saw a significant uptick in this kind of call before the state outlawed chemically altered substances known as “bath salts” and “spice”. Prior to the law change making these drugs illegal we were seeing these calls pretty regularly. These victims also tend to have a history of a preexisting psychological disorder and are likely to be chronic users after a binge. I don’t know if this man fit the entire profile but it is likely he fit enough of it to end up in this state. Their bodies overheat in an extreme way which is why they take off their clothes. They are very incoherent and usually combative. They are not generally cooperative with the police so a struggle can ensue in which their body further overheats and they can go into sudden cardiac arrest. If the officers aren’t prepared with medical nearby, the victim can die.
Fortunately in this case Sergeant Scott McGraw and Officers VanLandeghem, Haglund, Brehmer, Brasil and Brian Miller realized what was happening to this man and took steps to deal with this as a medical emergency. When the officers began to talk with him they realized he was delusional–Officers VanLandeghem and Haglund were able to convince him to get into the patrol car on his own–they can be seen on the video. The sergeant had already requested an ambulance to the scene but given the snow the officers decided it would be quicker to drive him to the ambulance so they drove him directly to the fire station on University to meet the ambulance. On the way, he became unresponsive. They drove the patrol car directly into the fire station bay and along with the paramedics they got him onto the gurney for transport. At that point he became combative but fortunately there was plenty of help and they were able to secure him with the ambulance restraints for transport to the hospital. The paramedics have also seen this before.
The good news is that no one was injured–not the person, not the officers and not the paramedics. Because the officers recognized the true nature of the call, they may have saved his life.
I don’t know his status as of today. I do know that his family was contacted yesterday and met him at the hospital. The officers did their best to assist the family with the next steps. It is a difficult challenge for family members. I hope they are able to find sufficient help for him.
We are proactive about our officer training. We follow the trends of our profession and search for training for our officers to help us meet new challenges as they emerge. The job is complex and ever-changing and without regular training we would not be prepared to meet situations like these.