Thursday, September 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Teen who died after being Tasered was 'sweet kid'

There are still more questions than answers about the death of Patrick Johnson after his confrontation with Philadelphia police.

Teen who died after being Tasered was 'sweet kid'

There are still more questions than answers about the death of Patrick Johnson after his confrontation with Philadelphia police.
Results of an autopsy on the 18-year-old, who died Thursday after being zapped twice with a Taser by police officers, were not yet available, said Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran.
With no new information to go on, Johnson’s family and police officials could only lament the encounter that led to tragedy.
“Our whole family is heartbroken,” said one relative, who declined to be named. “He’s being made out in the news as a raging monster, and he wasn’t. He was a sweet kid who would give you the shirt off his back.”
Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said cops had been called to Johnson’s home, on Souder Street near Tyson Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, 14 times this year for a variety of domestic problems.
Johnson, whom family members described as severely mentally challenged, acted violently toward officers during at least one encounter, Vanore said.
On Thursday, cops were called to Johnson’s house for the 15th time — this time for a report of a person with a weapon.
Vanore said two officers who had received crisis-intervention training arrived and found Johnson irate, destroying objects in his house while trying to set fire to sticks or tree branches.
The officers tried to calm him and get him to drop the sticks. Instead, he lunged at them, Vanore said, and was hit with a Taser once.
The jolt didn’t stop Johnson, and he was zapped again when he lunged at the officers a second time, Vanore said. He died at 1:10 p.m. at Nazareth Hospital.
“They didn’t have to do it. They didn’t have to taser a mentally challenged kid,” Johnson’s relative said.
The cops involved were among 700 in the department trained to diffuse potentially dangerous situations involving mentally unstable people, said Lt. Fran Healy, who coordinates the department’s crisis-intervention team.
The training was developed with the help of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services and other mental-health groups, and includes the use of Tasers.
“This is a tragedy. There’s no other way to look at it,” Healy said. “This is an officer who cares, who took volunteer courses because he was trying to do the right thing. He did the best he could.
“But an 18-year-old’s life is gone, and there’s no way to change that.”

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Philly Confidential, which covers crime in Philadelphia and the suburbs, is written by Daily News staffers Dana DiFilippo, Stephanie Farr, Vinny Vella and Morgan Zalot.

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