PRESS RELEASE May 25, 2017
On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the City of Gretna Police Department obtained the Forensic Examination Report submitted by the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office relative to the cause of death of Mr. Kendole Joseph on February 9, 2017. Mr. Joseph had interaction with the Gretna Police officers on February 7, 2017, at a convenience store located at Claire Avenue and Gretna Boulevard, in Gretna.
In summary the coroner’s office reports:
“It is my opinion that Kendole Joseph, a 27 year old male died as a result of acute psychosis exacerbated by diphenhydramine toxicity in setting of schizophrenia while in police custody. Toxicology testing reveals an elevated level of diphenhydramine/dimenhydrinate (Benadryl). The expected blood level for ingestion of single 50mg oral dose of diphenhydramine is 66 ng/mL and Mr. Joseph’s level upon admission to ER is 2100 ng/mL. There is evidence of progressing agitation and psychosis for at least 2 hours 45 minutes on the day of his death, which included running/walking over 5 miles. The following 7 minute police apprehension of Mr. Joseph included 2 discharges of conducted electrical weapon which contacted his lower back as well as physical restraint. He continued to be agitated following placement into police vehicle where he was found unresponsive several minutes later. The manner of death is classified as undetermined due to contributing roles of the natural disease process (psychosis) and the ingestion of Benadryl.”
The coroner’s office also reports that Joseph had no broken bones, bone fractures or other skeletal damage. There were no signs of damage to any internal organs which could be the result of blunt trauma or impact trauma. Joseph had no hemorrhages to the head area or the brain. Soft tissue damage to Joseph was consistent with medical treatment and Joseph’s actions in causing the struggle.
Investigators have obtained numerous statements from independent witnesses, law enforcement officers and family relative to this investigation and Joseph’s bizarre behavior prior to and during this incident.
Investigators have reviewed video footage of Joseph prior to contact with Gretna Police Officers. All videos displaying erratic and bizarre behavior by Joseph.
A review of the store’s video system by investigators shows Joseph entering the convenience store yelling to the clerk “call 911 they are coming to kill me, somebody call the cops”. Joseph then jumps over the counter appearing to strike his head on the counter and floor.
Two Gretna Police Officers follow Joseph over the counter and a six and a half minute struggle begins.
Officers were observed attempting to contain Joseph and gain control using various minimal compliance techniques. Joseph remained combative, striking officers, grabbing their chest, arms and throat areas. Joseph kicked and flailed his legs and was extremely non-compliant.
An officer deployed a taser, firing and striking Joseph in the lower back and energizing the taser, to which Joseph did not comply. A second trigger pull to the taser occurred but was stopped due to both Joseph and the officer receiving the taser’s effect. The taser was handed off to other officers.
Officers continued to struggle with Joseph while communicating as to the best method to contain Joseph behind a counter area less than three feet wide, which had numerous potential weapons within Joseph’s reach, inclusive of officers firearms, while using the least amount of force.
Officers communicated to utilize a straight baton in the video to attempt to pry Joseph’s arm from under his torso, however the officer could not get enough leverage on the arm with the baton to be effective. The officer is seen handing the baton away, no batons, straight sticks, PR-24 or other impact weapons were used to strike Joseph during this struggle.
An officer can be observed utilizing multiple defensive counter strikes, to Joseph’s mandibular area, in an attempt to gain compliance by Joseph, who was grabbing and punching the officers in the chest and shoulder area. Joseph would not let go of the officer’s shirt and vest area, and at one point his duty weapon holster.
An officer can be observed utilizing foot strikes to the upper leg area in an attempt to gain compliance by Joseph and asked for him to submit to officers’ commands. Officers succeeded in securing one handcuff on Joseph, at which point he was still combative and officers continued to bodily restrain him. Officers finally over powered Joseph to gain control of his arm in order to apply the final handcuff to his other arm.
Officers can be observed communicating and formulating a plan to safely remove Joseph. They further sent for leg restraints due to Joseph continuing to attempt to kick the officers and flail his lower torso and legs. Joseph was eventually shackled and contained.
Officers can be observed as being exhausted from the struggle and yet carried Joseph, from the store to the awaiting police unit, while still yelling and flailing.
The investigation confirmed that officers secured Joseph in the police unit in a seated position. Shortly thereafter, Officers noticed that Joseph had slumped forward and went to investigate his condition. Joseph appeared to be in distress, at which time medical aid was immediately rendered.
The investigation revealed that there were no severe blows delivered by officers with, or without, any impact weapon that could have caused significant injury to Joseph. The video corroborates that a taser was utilized, was ineffective and was only activated twice in the struggle, all consistent with a lower level of force than could have been utilized by the police officers in the use of force spectrum.
The investigation confirms and corroborates by video and the statements of constant communication between officers on the scene coordinating their options and communicating with Joseph to attempt to have him to comply, by simply surrendering his hands, showing his hands and to stop resisting.
Officers responded to a potentially deadly encounter with a much lower level of force and de-escalation of force than could have been justified under the circumstances. Officers acted appropriately in response to the situation and responded reasonably to the level of force displayed by Mr. Joseph. The Gretna Police Department has closed its investigation and will forward this case to the Honorable Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office.
The Gretna Police Department contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation office on or about April 27, 2017, and offered to supply the video footage of this incident for their review.
The Gretna Police Department and Chief Arthur S. Lawson, Jr. previously stated that all footage from the convenience store would be released to the public in conclusion of the investigation.
To view the full version of the videos pertaining to this incident go to the Gretna Police Department website, www.gretnapolice.com under press releases.
Deputy Chief Anthony H. Christiana, Jr.
The videos are available below for download: