The Ohio state attorney general’s office is investigating the death of a 33-year-old autistic man, David Levi Dehmann, who died in police custody. Police reports indicate the autistic man was arrested for disorderly conduct and was taken to the Knox County Jail to be booked. However, during booking, officers say that Dehmann became aggressive and a “take down hold” was performed. During the incident, Dehmann’s had was smashed against the ground causing his death.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that David Dehmann was arrested at 7:43 pm on Tuesday afternoon for disorderly conduct after deputies were called to the Dan Emmett Elementary School ball fields on the complaint of a drunken man near the restrooms. When Mount Vernon police Cpl. Travis Tharp arrived on the scene, he arrested Dehmann and noted the man’s belligerent behavior on the police ride to the county jail.
Once at the jail’s booking area, Dehmann allegedly tried to hit a deputy in the face. Deputy Chase Wright was on the receiving end of Dehmann’s blows and decided to use a take down hold on the man. The deputy performed the maneuver, but in the process the autistic man’s head was smashed against the ground. It was noted that the man had a head injury following the take down, and he was immediately transported to the ER at Knox County Hospital. He would later die from his injuries.
Despite the man dying from head injuries after the take down, police are still questioning whether the take down hold maneuver caused the injuries or not, as police officers reported that Dehmann already had head injuries previously in the day when police responded to other calls regarding the drunk autistic man.
According to police reports, police responded to a call earlier in the day involving a drunk Dehmann who had passed out, half-naked, and vomited near a neighborhood patio. Officer Tharp responded to this earlier incident and took the man to the hospital for a head injury he had suffered while passing out on the concrete. The hospital staff released Dehmann but called Tharp back to inform him that the man did not have a ride home. Tharp says he dropped Dehmann off at a location of his request – the man’s aunt’s house – and that at the time Dehmann appeared to be walking fine and sobered up. However, a few hours later, Tharp would be called back for a second drunken disturbance by Dehmann and ultimately arrest him for repeated disorderly conduct throughout the day.
Despite the possible head injury earlier in the day, the formal investigation report into the death notes that the autistic man did, in fact, hit his head during the intake at the jail.
“While Dehmann was in the jail’s intake area he became aggressive with the jail staff making an aggressive move towards Deputy [Chase] Wright. Mr. Dehmann did attempt to hit Dep. Wright in the face, causing Dep. Wright to place Mr. Dehmann into a takedown hold, taking him to the ground to get control of him. Once control was gained, it was found that Mr. Dehmann had hit his head on the floor during the incident. Mr. Dehmann was transported to KCH ER by Mount Vernon medics for a medical evaluation.”
Dehmann’s step-mother says that though the man, who suffered from autism and Tourette’s Syndrome, had a checkered past with drinking and run-ins with the police, he didn’t deserve to die in this manner.
“He might have had his issues in the past and everything, but he didn’t deserve to die because of this. We got a phone call at 4:00 a.m. from his mom just stating that he was in Grant Medical Center with head trauma, and we need to get there.”
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