Mentally Ill Woman Fully Shackled When She Was Fatally Tasered . . . Four Times

A 130-pound mentally ill woman who died at a Virginia jail in February after a deputy shocked her four times was restrained with her hands cuffed behind her back, leg shackles and a mask, the Washington Post reports.

On February 3, Natasha McKenna initially cooperated with Fairfax County Jail deputies and agreed to be handcuffed but her mental state deteriorated rapidly, and they went for help. According to reports obtained by The Post, McKenna tried to take off the 'cuffs and screamed, “You promised you wouldn’t hurt me.”

Six Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team members arrived at McKenna’s cell in bio-hazard suits and placed her in full restraints, including shackles and an anti-spitting mask. When McKenna wouldn’t bend her knees so that she could be placed in a wheeled restraint chair, a lieutenant delivered four 50,000-volt shocks from the Taser. This enabled other deputies to place her in the chair. She reportedly still wouldn't bend her knees, so they continued to shock her.

McKenna, 37, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 12, stopped breathing soon after being shocked. Jail deputies weren’t able to revive her using CPR. She had stopped breathing for around 20 minutes before paramedics arrived at 11:24 a.m. and revived her in the ambulance en route to a local hospital. McKenna stopped breathing at least three times more before she was stabilized at 1:13 p.m. but then died several days later. Authorities are waiting for results from the autopsy to determine the cause of death.

McKenna’s journey to the Fairfax county jail began when she allegedly punched a Alexandria City police officer on January 15 and was subsequently hospitalized for mental health treatment. Alexandria police obtained a warrant for her arrest a few days later and she was taken to Fairfax jail. She reportedly had brief violent run-ins with deputies in the days leading up to her death. She also urinated and defecated on the floor of her cell, actions treated as biohazards by the jail.

Experts interviewed by The Post say using a stun gun on a fully restrained person is not a reasonable use of force under these circumstances. Moreover, using a stun gun more than three times on one person is considered above the threshold.

“She wasn’t a threat; she wasn’t going anywhere; she was restrained,” Richard Lichten, a use-of-force expert and former jail official in Los Angeles, told The Post. “It feels excessive, unnecessary and out of policy, based on what you’re telling me.”

“They didn’t need to confront her this way. They made it worse,” McKenna’s mother, Marlene Williams, told The Post. “She was mentally sick.”


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