A Gilbert police panel's administrative investigation cleared officers of any wrongdoing in the death an 18-year-old male.
The panel's report, released Friday, also states that five witnesses reported seeing officers use excessive force during Gilbert resident Andrew Athetis' Jan. 17 arrest.
The Gilbert panel stated that Athetis' death was "unfortunate," but that police had used "appropriate levels of force." Additionally, the panel found that the police officers' actions were "lawful and in compliance with departmental procedures and established training guidance."
Jovita Cantua, 60, of Gilbert, said she and her three family members who also saw the arrest were shocked to hear that the panel cleared Gilbert police of any wrongdoing.
"It's a lie. They did use excessive force. To me he was dead already," she said.
"There was saliva and foam coming out of his mouth . . . and they were still treating him badly. They even got his head and slammed it on the ground.
"They didn't have to do this," she said. "The policemen should have known the boy was unconscious already; we could tell just by looking at him."
According to the police report, a female teenager and her father also witnessed the arrest. The teen reported she thought police used excessive force while arresting Athetis. Her father said he did not see police use excessive force.
Police arrested Athetis after receiving a 911 dispatch that a male struck a woman in the chest with his fist and stole her car keys while she was standing in her garage. Athetis was reportedly wandering on foot in a Gilbert neighborhood near Elliot and Lindsay roads.
Three officers encountered Athetis in a community water fountain in near 40-degree weather. When Athetis was unresponsive to an officer's orders to put his arms up, the officer used a Taser on him.
According to police reports, Athetis fell to the ground but did not comply with an officer's orders to put his arms out. The officer administered three more five-second taser shots within a 33-second time span
Minutes after handcuffing Athetis, an officer requested assistance from the Gilbert Fire Department after he noticed "drool coming from Andrew's mouth and that he was pale and wet."
Gilbert firefighters transferred Athetis to Mercy Gilbert Medical Center where he was pronounced dead about 11 hours later.
The investigation panel, which consisted of Gilbert police officers, Police Chief Tim Dorn and Gilbert's legal adviser Kate Weiby, referred to a Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office autopsy report that determined Athetis' death was "accidental" and due to "excited delirium associated with acute methamphetamine toxicity."
Excited delirium, according to the police report, is generally defined as a condition brought on by stimulant drug abuse or psychiatric illness, in which a spike in adrenalin levels causes cardiac arrest. The county medical examiner's office found traces of methamphetamine, amphetamine and diphenhydramine in Athetis' urine.
According to the police report, Athetis' mother, Gina, told police her son had recently checked out of a rehabilitation center before completing treatment for a heroin addiction and was self-medicating with amphetamines and marijuana to treat ADD and his drug withdrawals.
On the day of Athetis' arrest, Gina said she left work early because her son phoned her distraught. According to the report, Gina came home and cradled her son. He initially calmed, but soon became paranoid and fled the house.
In light of the officers' compliance with Gilbert Police Department regulations, the panel offered no recommendations regarding the officers' actions. However, the panel referred an officer, who used inappropriate language when speaking to witnesses at the scene of Athetis' arrest, for one-on-one mentoring with his supervisor.
Sgt. Andrew Duncan, a Gilbert police spokesman, said the report stands on its own and the department declines further comment on the case.
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