The death of Ariel Galarza, a 49-year-old Bronx man shot with a taser by an NYPD officer last November, has been ruled a homicide. Galarza had allegedly been threatening the police with a glass bottle when he was tasered twice by Sgt. William Melrose, handcuffed, and then went into cardiac arrest.
“The manner of death in this case means that death resulted in whole or in part from the actions of another person or persons and not primarily from natural causes such as disease,” Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman Julie Bolcer told the NY Post. Medical studies have linked tasers to fatal heart failure, and Galarza was not the first to die following an NYPD tasering; nevertheless, the city's police force tripled its stock of tasers with a purchase of 1,710 X26 stun guns from Taser International.
On the night Galarza was killed, three officers responded to a 911 call about an emotionally disturbed person wielding a knife and acting violently at 1840 Mayflower Avenue in the Bronx. After tasering him twice, officers performed CPR on Galarza, but he was later pronounced dead at Einstein Hsopital.
Bolcer further explained Galarza's death as the result of "cardiac arrest following physical exertion, restraint and use of conducted electrical weapon in an individual with hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, acute drug intoxication (cocaine and n-ethylpentylone) and obseity." N-ethylpentylone is a primary ingredient in drugs commonly referred to as bath salts.
Soon after Galarza's death, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his office would investigate the incident because no weapon was recovered at the scene. Sanford Rubenstein, an attorney for Galarza's family, has called for a trial by grand jury and criminal charges for Melrose.
Last March, the family of Anthony Paul II, a 29-year-old man who was tasered by the NYPD and later died, sued the NYPD for $25 million. Paul went into cardiac arrest hours after being tasered and handcuffed in the Bronx in 2015, and in their lawsuit his family criticized the NYPD, EMS, and North Central Bronx Hospital for violating his civil rights and using excessive force. In numerous other cases, the NYPD has been criticized for tasering unarmed suspects that have later died. The Washington Post estimates that in America, one person per week dies after being tasered by law enforcement.