Mentally ill man dies in police custody

TALENT — A Talent man reported to have schizophrenia died Wednesday night, shortly after being Tasered, subdued and handcuffed by Jackson County sheriff's deputies at a home in the 6800 block of Wagner Creek Road. Correction: see below

The Jackson County Sheriff's Department was called at 10:20 p.m. to respond to an "unknown medical reaction" suffered by 23-year-old Christopher Ladue, a news release said.

Police said Ladue was in his parents' backyard, on his back, flailing his arms. Family members brought him into the house where he "mildly assaulted" his father, and broke a porch railing and flowerpot before running off.

He then ran to a neighbor's home and tried to get in, police said. Talent and Phoenix police found him and tried to make an arrest.

Police said Ladue resisted, and each officer used a Taser with a dart pack to subdue him. The darts struck Ladue but had no effect, police said.

He ran back into the road and confronted officers again, prompting a fight, the news release said. Officers said they again fired Taser darts at him with no effect. They also applied a Taser to him directly and used pepper spray unsuccessfully, police said.

While held on the ground with the three officers on top of him, Ladue struggled and was attempting to get up, police said. After a short struggle, officers overpowered and handcuffed him.

Ladue's heart stopped shortly afterward. Nearby medical personnel, who had come to the initial call for help and had been standing by, immediately attempted to resuscitate Ladue before transporting him to Rogue Regional Medical Center in an ambulance. He died an hour later, police said.

"We're assuming it's medical at this point," said Capt. Monte Holloway of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. "There are too many variables and unknowns right now."

Court records show Ladue had no prior criminal history in Jackson County.

The case is under investigation by Major Assault Death Investigation Unit detectives. An autopsy was scheduled for today.

A woman who answered the phone at the Ladue home Thursday morning said the family was "devastated" over the incident but did not wish to comment further.

This is the second death of a person in police custody in a week. Joseph Matthew Vavrosky, 42, died Aug. 28 after an Oregon State Police trooper pulled him over during an interagency drunken driving operation. Vavrosky ran from the vehicle, crossing the Interstate 5 viaduct and running toward Biddle Road. Officers pursuing him attempted to shoot their Tasers, which they said missed. Vavrosky was arrested by Medford police near McAndrews Road as he hid in bike path bushes. He collapsed shortly after his arrest and died. An autopsy to determine the cause of his death was inconclusive.

Scott Chappell, 44, of Eagle Point, also died shortly after police used a Taser on him in June. A veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Chappell reportedly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He, too, was Tasered and wrestled to the ground by police officers before being subdued.

The use of Tasers in law enforcement has come under scrutiny in the past few years nationally, though no definite conclusions have been drawn. The advocacy group Amnesty International says about 500 people have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers, either while in custody or jail, and a study by the American Heart Association said Tasers can cause cardiac arrest. Clarification: See below

However, a study from the National Institute of Justice, released in 2010, found that "while exposure to conducted energy devices (such as Tasers) is not risk-free, there is no conclusive medical evidence that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death from the direct effects of CEDs."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email

Correction: Christopher Ladue's mental health condition has been updated in this story after the Mail Tribune received additional information from his family.

Clarification: The story has been updated to clarify the content of the Amnesty International study.

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