MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The West Miami Police Department Tuesday night was downplaying its role in the death of a man who died after being “tazed” Friday in a bizarre episode that saw lawmen from two agencies confront a naked, incoherent subject.
Twenty one year-old George Saldago died hours after being taken into custody after a 911 caller said Saldago, unclothed and acting wildly, had tried to bite him and rip off his clothes.
Saldago was confronted by West Miami police who used a Tazer gun in an attempt to incapicate him.
A West Miami Police source close to the investigation told CBS4 News Tuesday night that their officers were asked to respond to the call by Miami-Dade police who did not have units nearby.
“We responded and acted appropriately, “tazing” the subject in an effort to bring him under control,” the source told CBS4′s Gary Nelson.
“While our officers were still present, Miami-Dade officers arrived and also tazed the subject,” the source said. “Our officers cleared the scene, leaving the subject in the custody of the Miami-Dade officers.”
The West Miami Dade police source said all of the officers from that department had completed incident reports and submitted them for the on-going investigation into Saldago’s death, which is being conducted by Miami-Dade police.
The West Miami police source told CBS4 News, “None of our officers beat or struck the subject, beyond using a Tazer weapon to attempt to incapacitate him.”
Miami-Dade police spokesman, Detective Roy Rutland, said Tuesday night his department is awaiting “toxicology and autopysy reports before drawing any conclusions.”
“We owe it to the family to conduct a thorough investigaton,” Rutland said.
The West Miami police source made it clear in his comments to CBS4 news that if Saldago was beaten or abused – an assumption the source insisted is not necessarily true - it occurred after the West Miami officers cleared the scene.
After being restrained, Salgado was taken to Larkin Hospital under the Baker Act. Due to his erratic behavior, police said he presented to a threat to himself and others. Several hours later he died.
“I can’t describe the pain of losing a child,” said Salgado’s mother Barbara Alfano. “I can’t describe it in words but it’s overwhelming.”
Jeffrey Norkin, an attorney for Salgado’s family, said he believes the officers beat Salgado severely in addition to using a Taser on him.
Norkin said when family members went to see him in the hospital they found that he was covered in bruises, had welts on his head, his face was scraped and his wrists were bloody and scarred.
“From the time i saw him he never stopped bleeding,” father Jorge Salgado said. “From 5 at night to 6 in the morning.”
Norkin said he believes officers should not have used a Taser on Salgado since he was unarmed and could have been wrestled to the ground. The police said the Taser was used because he was out of control. Norkin said Salgado had taken LSD, which caused a break with reality.
“We don’t know the exact cause,” said Norkin. “What we do know is that there was no reason for him to die.”
“I feel angry because i was not there at the time they were beating him,” said Alfano. “I wish I could have done something.”