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Taser Cops Cleared Hollywood In-custody Death 2002(4)

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Cocaine, not stun gun, faulted
death of homeless man, 31
report his lawyer ordered attributes his death to asphyxiation. }Je said his grandson was
suffering from an asthma
attack and was flailing his arms
around to get help. The man
had trouble communicating
because of an earlier tracheotomy that limited his ability to
The Taser jolt only worsened his condition, Del' Ostia
"Whoever invented that
gun, they should shoot that son
of a gun," he said.
But so~e witnesses, including police officers at the scene,
attributed Del' Ostia's erratic
behavior in the Entrada lobby,
at 509 N. Federal Highway, to
In a 911 call, a motel worker
stationed at the front desk
urged police to get to the
Entrada immediately. "We
have a man on drugs, crazy,"
the caller said.
But members of the Peer
Center, an Oakland Park program run by the mentally ill for
the mentally ill - a place
where Del' Ostia was a regular
- said the troubled man was
sober when he died. Del' Ostia
had a drug test scheduled that
week in order to qualify for
subsidized housing through
the Peer Center :- something
friends said he would not jeopardize.
However, family friend
Nicholas Souza said Vinnie, as
he was known, lived "a fast
life" that included cocaine use.·
Del' Ostia also got into trouble with the law, serving
prison time for second-degree
murder; cocaine possession
and grand theft. .
On Tuesday, his defenders
had a mixed reaction to the
patholpgist's findings.
"Whether he was loaded or
not, that was a cry for help, not
a cry for murder," said ·his

Miramar officer won't face charges
officer and lO-year veteran of
the force, stopped and asked
what was wrong.
Mankowski testified that
he smelled marijuana on both
Ellington and his passenger,
Jayson John, 20. Mankowski
called for backup; officers
searched the car, and Mankowski patted down Ellington.
~llington claimed that,
afte'r frisking him, Mankowski asked whether Elling, ton had· ever had a fiQger
"stuck up" his buttocks.
Ellington alleged that
Mankowski then started
applying lubricant to the
index finger of his hand,
which had a latex glove on it.
Mankowski threatened to
take him to a secluded area to
do the body-cavity search,
Ellington said.
, Mankowski testified that
he routinely uses latex gloves
for searches, and that he
app.lied a hand cleaper to his
bare hands when he got back
into his police car. Mankowski also said he tpld
Ellington that if .any drugs

friend and mental health advocate Mark Moening.
Ec\ward C. Pazicky, executive director of the Peer Center, argues that a calm,:reassur-'
ing voice is still more likely to
deescalate such a situation
with a mentally ill person than
a weapon of force.
Del' Ostia's psychological
condition was unclear; several
friends described him as
schizophrenic - a condition
his father suffers from. But his
grandfather, said it was drugs

'I feel it's messed
up that the
officers can get
away with this so
Pembroke Pines driver

were found on him, he would
be taken to jail and searched.
Assistant State Attorney
Bernhard Hollar, in a memo
closing 'his investigation,
wrote that there was no
"independent witness to corroborate [Ellington's] allegation."
Although John supported
Ellington's account of Mankowski's behavior, their testimony would not be credible
in tront of a jury because part
of the men's statements cunflicted, Hollar wrote. John
said, Ellington had not
smoked marijuana that evening, but Ellington told
police he had smoke~ marijuana 15 to 25 minutes before

Mankowski approached him.
"It would be difficult for a
jury to believe just Mr.
Ellington and Mr. John over
and above the police officers
with this glaring conflict in
their testimonies," Hollar
wrote. "Furthermore, all of
the officers testified consistent with each other."
Mankowski and two other
officers called to the scene
denied the allegations.
Ellington said he was pro- '
illed by police based on his
race and that,he wears dreadlocks. Four days before the
incident, a man with dreadlocks stabbed a Miramar officer. A suspect was arrested.
Ellington said he will talk
to an attorney about options.
He added: "To me, [the
discrepancy] has nothing to
do with the allegations. The
only reason I made the complaint is because of what the
officer said.
"The officers are defi_
nitely lying," Ellington said,
adding that he tries to drive
in Miramar as little as possible. "I feel it's messed up that
the officers can get away
with this so easily."

Taser," he said. "Tasers don't
electrocute people, That is a
misconception people have."
Tuttle said extensive studies on the weapon showed
there was not a correlation
b~tween drug use and Taser
Still, controversy over the
guns is likely to continue. Last
week in Hilliard, Fla., a 46year-old man died after Nassau
County deputies shot him with
the Taser. Officials are waiting
for a cause of death.