Treona McCarter, Brian Ross, D’Marea Johnson, and James LeClare are charged with malfeasance in office and negligent homicide.
McGlothen died in the backseat of a Shreveport police vehicle following a struggle with the officers. The officers were placed on leave after video surfaced showing the violent encounter before his death.
The Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office says McGlothen, who had mental health issues, had three encounters with the police within a short time on the day he died. Prosecutors say there is evidence of excessive force used on McGlothen, and that officers failed to summon medical help for him.
Attorneys for the officers say they did their jobs as they were trained to do and that no laws were broken. They say McLaughlin did not qualify for emergency commitment based on their observations during encounters leading up to the third on the day that ended in his death. They say McGlothen’s death was from natural causes as a result of his excited delirium and a heart condition and there was nothing they could have done to prevent it.
Caddo District Court Judge Chris Victory on Tuesday heard testimony from a critical care doctor who attended McGlothen when he arrived at the hospital, as well as the forensic pathologist who performed McGlothen’s autopsy and Caddo Parish Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma.
The doctor that created McGlothen at the hospital said he was in cardiac arrest and on life support when he arrived and although he was resuscitated once more, he never regained consciousness. The doctor confirmed patients are less likely to survive cardiac arrest as more time passes. But in a line of questioning from prosecutors about McGlothen’s levels of potassium at the time, the doctor cast doubt on whether the higher levels observed in his autopsy were necessarily that high before the cardiac event or elevated by the event itself.
Attorneys for the defense have argued that McGlothen’s existing heart disease and elevated potassium levels contributed to his death. Dr. James Traylor is the pathologist who performed the autopsy, and he said he was unable to conclude the cause of death. He did note “minor blunt force injuries” from his physical altercations with police and others that day that included a black eye, abrasions, and bruising. He also found hypertensive cardiovascular disease, otherwise known as an enlarged heart due to hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
While Traylor could not pin the cause of McGlothen’s death on the heart disease itself or the injuries caused by being struck, tazed, and maced by police, he did say, “if he was experiencing some kind of mental emergency, placing him in the back of a police car didn’t help matters.”
Caddo Parish Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma explained why he ruled McGlothen’s cause of death as excited delirium and the manner “natural causes.” He said excited delirium is controversial and not well-recognized, and “not really a thing that you can do an autopsy on and find,” but the condition has been known for decades by other names, characterized by an agitated state in which patients break from reality and become combative, show “superhuman strength,” and are impervious to pain
Even as they calm down, patients have been known to suffer cardiac arrest, and survival rates are relatively low. Still, Thoma said McGlothen’s death was potentially preventable, had he been taken to the hospital sooner.
The judge also heard from a Tazer expert, who explained how the weapons work and about logs from three Tazers used during the incident. The internal clock malfunctioned in one, but logs from the other two show one was not triggered and the other was triggered 6 times in less than 2 minutes during the encounter. But the Tazer expert said the logs entered into evidence can not accurately show whether the weapon was in contact with a subject at the time it was charged, or whether there was a cartridge in it at the time. He also testified that a “dry stun” without a cartridge in it cannot result in serious injury or death.
Earlier in the day, the judge also heard from McGlothen’s father and sister, who testified about his paranoid delusional behavior that day and how they called the police to try to have him admitted to the hospital under an emergency commitment.
McGlothen’s sister, LaQuita, testified that she told the officers that her brother had schizophrenia with paranoid delusions and depression and that he had been off his medications since February.
LaQuita McGlothen also testified that her brother had just learned that day a friend had been diagnosed with Covid and that because he had a cough, he became increasingly distressed that he might get sick or infect his family and began to talk about wanting to die and not being afraid to die.
They also heard from Officer Eric Coker, who was the third officer called to McGlothen’s home that day, and who told the family he did not qualify for an emergency commitment but encouraged them to call again if things escalated, and if not, to call the coroner’s office in the morning because the corners office might be able to help them get him committed.
Officer Coker confirmed the decision not to emergency commit was a consensus among officers.
Officer Coker was also at the scene later that evening on Eileen Street, where the officers on trial were involved in a violent encounter with McGlothen shortly before he became unresponsive in the backseat of a police vehicle. Police dashcam video was played in court of McGlothen in the backseat of the police unit, where he can be seen in an agitated state, occasionally yelling the name his family confirmed he uses when he is having a delusional episode, “Dale Bay. “He also exclaimed that he could not breathe and that he needed help.
Officer Coker helped get leg irons on McLaughlin’s ankles, placed a spit hood over his head, and helped McGlothen get into an upright sitting position after the other officers placed him in the backseat on his head. He also assisted McLaughlin out of the vehicle for firefighters to check on him and confirmed that the check took less than two minutes before he placed him back in the police unit.
Coker confirmed he heard McGlothen say he couldn’t breathe before he put spit hood on him, but that he was breathing and talking. Some of the testimony centered on how frequently the officers checked on McGlothen before he was found unresponsive, and what firefighters were told about what had happened before he was placed in the police vehicle.
Defense attorneys made a point to confirm with Officer Coker that he knew there are no general orders requiring officers to check a certain amount of times or frequency on a suspect in custody. On cross-examination, The state pointed out that there are general orders pertaining to the officer’s responsibility for a suspect’s well-being.
Also on Wednesday, a third EMT testified about being called to the scene to give Officer Treona McCarter water and alcohol wipes to clean off her vest after McGlothen spit on her. While firefighters were there on the scene, an officer asked for a spithood and another asked for a check of an injured finger. The firefighters also testified that they were asked to wipe blood from McGlothen‘s knee so that he could be taken to jail, but they said that was the extent of the request for medical care. The firefighters say they were never told about a physical altercation that had taken place before McGlothen was handcuffed and placed in the backseat of the police unit.
Prosecutors also introduced and the court watched all of the dashcam and surveillance videos showing the police interactions with McGlothen that day, including from the backseat where McGlothen died.
The trial is expected to wrap up by the end of the week.