SHREVEPORT, La. -- The attorney for one of four Shreveport police officers being investigated in the death of a man who collapsed after a struggle with officers said Tuesday that his client’s actions were reasonable given the circumstances officers were dealing with.
Tommie McGlothen, 44, died in April after an intense struggle with police officers who had arrived to investigate an attempted car burglary on Eileen Lane near the west shore of Cross Lake. McGlothen, who had a history of mental problems, fought officers, who wrestled, tased and hit him. After being subdued and put in the back of a patrol vehicle, McGlothen was later found unresponsive.
“Use of force is always disturbing, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t justified and reasonable under the circumstances," said Eron Brainard, the attorney for Officer D’marea Johnson. “Until a suspect is handcuffed and searched for any dangerous weapons, he presents a very real threat to the officer's well-being."
“They couldn’t control him by just simply trying to get his hands. He was too strong, and therefore they had to increase the level of force they used,” Brainard said. “The individual was not only struggling in the extreme, he was spitting on them.”
Under suspension along with Johnson are officers Treona McCarter, Brian Ross and James Leclare. Police Department officials placed them on leave June 8 after news reports about McGlothen’s death.
Caddo Parish Coroner Todd Thoma said McGlothen’s death was “natural” but “preventable,” attributing the cause of death to a condition called excited delirium.
That is a theory that is not universally accepted among legal and medical experts around the country.
Among the doubters in this case is the McGlothen family attorney. Attorney James Carter called excited delirium “pseudo science.”
Brainard sees it different, saying: “From the level of physical resistance he (McGlothen) made, nobody would have suspected he had a terrible heart condition.”
Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond has said he is looking to implement additional mental health training requirements for officers, including training on excited delirium.
Carter told KTBS he has not spoken with Police Department officials.
“The only relief we're going to get is at some point where this man is truly illuminated, all facts are revealed, and we're able to get justice under the law,” he said.
The Caddo district attorney’s office, which is gathering evidence and reviewing reports from police, will decide whether to present the case to a grand jury to decide whether charges should be filed against the officers.
Brainard said he and other attorneys representing the officers are monitoring the D.A.’s investigation.
“I think any death in custody is extremely concerning and should be closely examined,” Brainard said. “I hope they (Shreveport police, State Police and the district attorney) will review this fairly. I'm confident they'll do the right thing."
“George Floyd (the man who died after a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes) was an execution,” Brainard added. “This was not that.”
Shreveport attorney Ron Miciotto said he is representing Officer Ross but he would not comment on the case.