CINCINNATI - A federal wrongful death lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the death of a Forest Park man following an incident when a Taser was used on him nearly a year ago.
Family members of Corey McGinnis, Sr., 35, are suing North College Hill police Sgt. Ryan Schrand and the North College Hill Police Department for an undisclosed amount of money.
A testing report on the Taser used in the incident obtained by 9 On Your Side’s I-Team showed that the weapon was operating outside the manufacturer’s specifications, indicating the Taser may have sent more electricity into McGinnis’ body than it was designed to.
June 26, 2012 records show Officer Schrand shot McGinnis in the chest with his Taser as officers were breaking up a fight over a basketball game at Crutchfield Park in Springfield Township.
McGinnis collapsed immediately, and died at University of Cincinnati Medical Center five days later.
"What should have been an ordinary arrest was a deadly event. It should have been prevented," civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein said. "He Tased Corey McGinnis in the chest and he stopped his heart from beating."
The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office ruled McGinnis died of “hypoxic/ischemic encephalopathy due to cardiac arrest of undetermined etiology.”
Electricity does not leave a pathology in the body such as a gun shot wound would, so some medical examiners argue there is no way to prove definitively that a Taser can cause a death.
In a May 2011 report, the National Institute of Justice recommended that medical examiners list the Taser as “contributory” or “causal” if there can be no other explanation for a death proximal to Taser use.
The Hamilton County Coroner’s office gave the same “undetermined” cause of death in the case of 18-year-old Everette Howard of North College Hill, who died after an incident involving University of Cincinnati police on August 6, 2011 when a Taser was used on him. A multi-million dollar settlement was reached in that case.
Gerhardstein said he believes officers should talk to people rather than use a Taser.
"One of the problems with Tasers is that officers are too quick to use force," Gerhardstein said. "[McGinnis] had been violently attacked on the basketball court. He was bleeding. If he had just been talked to...they could have taken him into custody without any problem."
Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco has declined interviews concerning Taser-related incidents with 9 On Your Side’s I-Team.
North College Hill Police Chief Gary Foust has said previously that it appeared his officer acted appropriately according to department policy.
Family members of Corey McGinnis who were present at the park during the incident say McGinnis did nothing to resist officers or pose a threat.
Corey's sister, Yolanda McGinnis, said her brother was a "great guy and a "wonderful father."
Lisa McGinnis, the family spokesperson and Corey’s niece, says Corey’s two teen sons and nephew were playing basketball with him in a 4-on-4 game when Corey got jumped by players on the opposing team.
McGinnis says Corey’s other two younger sons, then ages 6 and 5, were also in the park.
“It’s really hard for his boys,” Lisa McGinnis said. “The younger ones ask, ‘Why did the police have to do that to our daddy?’”
Lisa McGinnis says Corey was a father figure to her son as well.
“It takes a toll on us all; mentally, physically, and emotionally,” she said. “I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy. It hurts today just like the day it happened.”