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Man stunned by KC police dies during arrest in Northland

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, June 17, 2013, at 9:45 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, June 17, 2013, at 11:10 p.m.

A man who climbed into a stranger’s car and refused to get out died Monday morning after struggling with Kansas City police officers who subdued him with a stun gun.

The victim was identified Monday night as Kevin L. Ellis, 45, of Kansas City.

A neighbor who saw the ordeal unfold said the man was acting odd before police arrived in the 5300 block of North Brighton Avenue about 6:20 a.m.

Terri Young was pulling out of her driveway to go to work when the car’s frightened owner stopped her and shouted, “There’s a man in my car!”

The car owner told Young she had seen a strange man in his mid-40s walking around her yard, crouching in her grass on all fours and acting suspicious around her car. He made her nervous, so she called police. She got into her car and locked the door, but unbeknownst to her, a back door remained unlocked.

The man pushed on her car, “bouncing it up and down,” then opened the rear driver’s side door and got inside, the car owner told police. She jumped out and ran to Young’s house for help.

Young approached the car to tell the man to get out. As she got closer, she saw his pupils were dilated and he appeared bewildered.

“I thought he was wasted beyond wasted,” she said. “He just looked at me like he was out of it. ... He was either suffering from a horrible medical condition or extremely intoxicated.”

He didn’t say anything, Young said. He was “just sitting there, like he was waiting to be driven somewhere.”

About that time, police arrived, so Young backed off to allow them to handle the situation.

Young heard the officers ask the man to exit the car, but he refused. She saw officers pull him from the car, struggling the whole time.

“He struggled when they told him to get down. He struggled when they were trying to cuff him,” Young said. “Then I heard the Taser.”

As officers struggled with him on the ground, an officer stunned him once by pressing a stun gun against his shoulder, police said.

Young confirmed police accounts that officers used the stun gun just once.

But the man still resisted, kicking both his legs, Young said.

“He was fighting them all the way,” she said.

Eventually, the officers handcuffed the man, rolled him over and saw he didn’t look well, police said.

They ordered an ambulance and noticed his lips appeared blue. The officers started CPR, but the man later died at a hospital.

The car’s owner declined to talk to a Star reporter Monday afternoon.

Ellis lived about a half-mile away. He completed probation for burglary and theft in November.

Kansas City police Capt. Tye Grant said officers use stun guns in “drive-stun” mode when they are too close to a suspect to fire darts from a cartridge, which is known as “dart mode.”

Before drive-stunning a suspect, police remove the dart cartridge and press the stun gun directly against a suspect, which causes a current to flow between two metal prongs about an inch apart on the front of the stun gun. The shock delivered is usually less than what is delivered through the darts, because the darts typically land on a suspect more than one inch apart, shocking a larger part of a person’s body.

The death represents the second time a man has died in Kansas City after being stunned by police. An autopsy from the first case in 2006 revealed that the man died from toxic effects of cocaine abuse.

Police cautioned that autopsy results would be necessary to determine the cause of death. The results won’t be ready for about six weeks, police said.

To reach Christine Vendel, call 816-234-4438 or send email to cvendel@kcstar.com.

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