Coconut Creek Police officers firing Tasers killed a man early Sunday morning inside the sprawling Wynmoor condominium complex, a usually tranquil gated retirement community, FloridaBulldog.org has learned.
The dead man, described by witnesses as a black man about 40 years old, died after being struck at least twice in the chest by wires tethered to the high-voltage stun guns. The Taser can deliver a painful and immobilizing electroshock from as far as 35 feet away.
Eyewitnesses said as many as four police officers fired four Taser shots in two volleys.
After the first volley, about five policemen “were around and on top of the man” who yelled out, “Baby! They are going to kill me” and “I can’t breathe,” the witnesses said.
Police threw an immediate veil of secrecy over the in-custody death that continued through Friday. The department has issued no press release or public statement about the incident at 1701 Andros Isle, although that’s typically standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.
Through a spokeswoman, Coconut Creek Police Chief Michael Mann declined Thursday to discuss what happened or even acknowledge that an in-custody death had occurred.
“He will not be giving any comments on this,” said the chief’s assistant, CarolAnn Bown.
The Broward Medical Examiner’s Office was also close-mouthed about the police takedown on a small strip of grass between the parking lot and unit E1.
“It’s under investigation and we can’t talk about it,” said an office spokeswoman. “It’s a police hold and we can’t speak about anything at all about a police hold…the hold has been put on by the agency, which is Coconut Creek.”
Witnesses John Arendale and his fiancé, Bonnie Eshleman, said it appeared the man was dead at the scene. A police source, however, said the man expired later at an unidentified hospital.
The source said the dead man had a lengthy criminal rap sheet, but provided no details. The source also said four Coconut Creek officers fired their Tasers, including Sgt. David Freeman. Freeman could not be reached for comment.
Arendale and Eshleman were sleeping about 1:30 a.m. Sunday when they were awakened by a violent commotion outside their front door.
“I ran to the window and just before I got there I heard two shots, a loud popping sound, like a firecracker, said Eshleman, who hand-wrote a three-page account of what she experienced. “I looked out the window and there was about five policemen around and on top of the man.”
Arendale heard the same two shots as he made his way to a vantage point at a nearby bedroom window that, like the kitchen window, faced the well-lit parking area and grass strip where the altercation was unfolding. He later saw a spent Taser wire from one of the initial shots lying on the sidewalk right outside his door. Small blood stains could be seen Thursday on floor tiles and in grouting.
“The man kept shouting, ‘Baby! Baby! They’re gonna kill me,’” Arendale said. “Sure enough they did.” Arendale said he believes the man was calling out to someone he knew at the complex, but has no idea who that might be.
Police haven’t heard their eyewitness statements. Neither Arendale nor Eshleman were contacted or interviewed by detectives.
Eshleman heard an officer ask the man his name. “Riley,” she thought she heard him reply.
Eshleman said the same policeman asked the man if he was visiting someone in the apartments, but she didn’t hear the man’s reply.
“That policeman spoke to Riley directly, but not aggressively. A different policeman said, ‘Stop moving or I will break your fucking arm,’” she said.
Another officer “came around to where his head was and hit him with something about a foot long. Riley continued to struggle and call out, ‘baby,’” says Eshleman’s narrative. The police source said Eshleman described an Asp, an expandable baton carried by city officers.
What happened next is recounted in Eshleman’s narrative: “After a few minutes they were getting him to his feet. He pulled away and started to run. Two shots were fired (same popping sound) and he fell to the ground. The bush blocked my view of him except his feet. He had clean white sneakers and socks.
Both Eshleman and Arendale saw two officers fire, nearly simultaneously.
“As he was lying there, there were cops all around him. I couldn’t see well because of the bushes. Riley stopped struggling. A few minutes later I heard a cop say, “Is he breathing?”
Arendale described the man as about six feet tall with a goatee and “a belly on him.” When he was rolled over Arendale could see Taser wires still attached to his chest. He also said the man’s legs were shackled.
An emergency medical technician began chest compressions. Arendale said that Riley was also hooked up to an EKG. Soon, they lifted him onto a stretcher, put him in an ambulance and drove away, “but not in any particular hurry,” said Arendale.
Arendale said the emergency medical techs were present at the scene before the first shots were fired.
At one point, Arendale opened his front door and the police yelled at him to go back inside because they were taking pictures. He said if he’d stepped out he would have stepped into the roped-off crime scene.
Afterward, Arendale overheard a police officer say that the Coconut Creek police were summoned to the scene by Wynmoor security who reported lots of shouting at a nearby building. What the shouting was about or why the location changed was not known.
Also unknown is why Riley was at Wynmoor and how he entered the security conscious development.
“That’s the $64 question. How did he get in here?” said Arendale.
Wynmoor security director ONeil Elliott did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.