In late January, 37-year-old Natasha McKenna called 911 to report an assault. She agreed to go to a hospital with police that arrived from Fairfax County At the hospital, she decided she didn't want to pursue charges. Cops found she had an outstanding warrant in Alexandria for allegedly assaulting an officer at a car rental agency in January, and placed her under arrest.
She was taken to the county jail, where Alexandria police failed to pick her up. Police in Alexandria had reportedly not arrested her after the incident that led to the warrant because it was recommended she seek mental health treatment.
County authorities say on February 3rd, after contacting Alexandria police multiple times about transferring her and after, authorities say, personnel at the jail had noted her "deterioration" mental state, authorities say McKenna resisted officers' commands when she was Tased four times. She died in a hospital four days later.
The county suspended the use of Tasers in its prisons and launched an investigation into the incident. Yesterday, the Fairfax County sheriff's office released video of the incident. The sheriff, Stacy Kincaid, who met with McKenna's family to offer condolences and explain why she decided to release the video. NBC 4 in Washington reports:
"There has been so much inaccurate information that was being put out, and it was important that we were able to show exactly both the professionalism and the restraint and the patience that the deputies demonstrated in trying to get Ms. McKenna treatment and back to Alexandria," she said. "That's where she needed to be."
Nevertheless, despite insisting police officers did nothing wrong, Kincaid also pointed to changes made in the wake of McKenna's death:
She said she also wanted to convey to the McKenna family that their loved one's death has spurred change.
"Natasha McKenna did not die in vain, and there will be something good that comes of this tragedy and that is a better system that's going to be set up in terms of how we treat those with mental illness," Kincaid said.
In the wake of the incident, Tasers are no longer being used at the jail. A team from the sheriff's department has traveled to see model programs designed to divert mentally ill offenders from jail and into treatment. Fairfax County has a launched "Diversion First" task force to begin routing more offenders with mental health issues to other programs rather than locking them up. More sheriff's deputies are also receiving Crisis Intervention Team training to help them better understand and handle mentally ill offenders.
Offering condolences while denying wrongdoing and paying lip service to change is a kind of standard go-to for law enforcement after "tragedies" that law enforcement after "tragedies" that would be crime if they weren't committed under the color of law.
The investigation into McKenna's in-custody death is apparently still ongoing, with files submitted to the county attorney two months ago, That's never stopped claims that the evidence supports officer professionalism before.
Watch a short excerpt of the video via the AP below:
And the 48 minute video released by the sheriff's office here.