Caught on video: Violent police confrontation

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by Javier Soto & Jared Dillingham

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

azfamily.com

Posted on April 15, 2014 at 9:28 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 21 at 12:21 PM

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PHOENIX -- A 38-year-old man died following an altercation with Phoenix police officers at a West Valley restaurant on Sunday night. Video of the deadly struggle was taken by restaurant employees, and posted online.

Two police officers were injured during the struggle with Edward Michael Caruth at Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. It happened just after 10 p.m. at 51st Avenue and Bell Road, according to Officer James Holmes with the Phoenix Police Dept.

Employees at the restaurant recorded the fatal fight on their cell phones, and posted the video online. It shows two officers struggling to handcuff Caruth. Just as they got one hand behind his back, Caruth jumps up and fights back. One officer deploys his Taser, but instead of subduing Caruth, it seems to set him off. He lashes out, and is shot again by a Taser's prongs. The second attempt also fails, and the fight between the officers and Caruth spills outside into the parking lot.

A male employee at the restaurant called 911 with concerns about a man who was in the restaurant. The employee said the man was acting strangely and mumbling to himself.

"He indicated to 911 that this suspect had been in the business for quite a while, was scaring the employees," said Officer Holmes. "He had gone into a restroom, barricaded himself in the restroom and then turned on the water faucets causing the restrooms to flood."

When Caruth came out of the bathroom he picked up a yellow folding "wet floor" sign and broke it. He then began to damage the counter area in the restaurant.

There were eight employees in the restaurant.

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"At one point he attempted to get back behind the counter and into the kitchen area of the restaurant but an employee that had been behind the counter actually grabbed a kitchen knife and threatened him with it and told him to stay back and the suspect did," said Officer Holmes.

The first officer on the scene noticed the apparently delirious man, pulled his Taser and started giving commands to the man.

"The only thing that the suspect would comply with was to get down on his knees. He wouldn't put his hands behind his back," explained Officer Holmes.

When a second officer arrived they attempted to take the man into custody.

"At that point he became physically resistant with the officers to the point where they were in a physical battle, if you will, for 3, 4, 5 minutes trying to get this guy into custody," said Officer Holmes.

Both officers deployed their Tasers. The suspect was tased at least four times and the Tasers had absolutely no effect.

Two more officers responded to the incident and they also struggled with the man before they were finally able to get him into custody and he immediately began showing signs of distress.

Caruth was treated at the scene and transported to a hospital where he died.

Two officers were injured. One had a laceration on his ear that required sutures. He also had a strained back and strained arm.

The other injured officer was left with lacerations on his hands and scratches. He also injured his right arm.

"We don't know what caused his behavior," said Office Holmes. "In these cases we suspect that there may be prescription drugs or illegal drugs. We won't know that until there's an autopsy."

One of the injured officers is 43-year-old and has been with the Phoenix Police Department for 18 years. The other injured officer is 50-years-old with 24 years on the force.

 

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