Man dies after being hit by police Taser

A 55-year-old man died Thursday morning after police fired a Taser at him during a confrontation in North Philadelphia.

Commissioner Richard Ross said an officer fired the Taser because the man had grabbed a female officer by her hair and neck while she was in her patrol car.

Ross said that hospital staff later reported the Taser prongs did not penetrate the man's skin, but that he still might have experienced a shock. A cause of death was still being determined. Police did not identify the man.

According to Ross, a witness told police that around 4:50 a.m. she saw the man jumping on a car stopped on 10th Street near Poplar Street and repeatedly screaming, "Help me, Jesus!" Police later determined the vehicle — a red Chevrolet pickup truck — was registered to the man, Ross said. 

When police responded a few minutes later, Ross said, the man approached the patrol car and grabbed a female officer by the hair and neck before she was able to get out. Another officer fired a Taser at the man to stop the struggle, Ross said.

After the man collapsed, an officer — believing the man might have overdosed on drugs — administered naloxone, Ross said.

Ross was not certain whether the man had taken heroin, the drug for which naloxone is often used as an antidote. Serious side effects of naloxone are rare, even if mistakenly administered to someone who had not used an opioid.

Medics treated the man at the scene and took him to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he was declared dead at 5:46 a.m., police said.

Few residents near the scene were eager to talk Thursday morning, and many said they were asleep at the time of the incident. Around noon, the pickup truck was still in the middle of 10th Street, cordoned off by yellow police tape.

Under standard procedures, the Homicide Unit and Internal Affairs Unit will investigate the incident. 

The Medical Examiner's Office is expected to conduct an autopsy.

The female officer suffered minor injuries, police said.

Staff writers Mari A. Schaefer and Don Sapatkin contributed to this story.