(11 AM Sunday: This story has been updated with additional interviews, sources, and context. Scroll down past the original story for more).
LUNSFORD, Ark. – A local man died Friday night after going into cardiac arrest following an officer using a taser and handcuffing him on what was a medical assistance call to the man’s home. The family believes the officer didn’t handle the situation right and said they want the truth to be known about their lost loved one.
Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington confirmed the following information to NEA Report late Saturday:
“The Bay Volunteer Fire Department responded to Lunsford for a call of a person in distress,” Ellington said. “The first responder was a Bay police officer. When the subject in distress realized a Bay officer was in his house he became agitated and an altercation ensued. The subject attempted to grab the officer’s gun. The officer was able to secure his service weapon. While attempting to subdue the individual, the officer had to use his taser to dry stun the individual in an attempt to handcuff him. An ambulance arrived on scene shortly thereafter. The individual went into cardiac arrest in route to the hospital. He was pronounced deceased shortly after arriving at the hospital.”
The body has been sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab.
The incident is being investigated by the Craighead County Sheriff’s Office.
“A huge loss for the community”
Israel Porterfield is the man who tragically died, NEA Report has learned. He was both a paramedic and a police officer, a friend told us. His Facebook profile was filled with condolences and love from those who knew him before the news had broken in the media Saturday.
“This is a huge loss for the community,” Medic One owner Ryan Kibler told NEA Report. “He’s been working at Crittenden County EMS in the last month.”
Porterfield leaves behind a wife and children.
Our most sincere condolences are with his family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult period.
Family: This Is A Cover Up
Updated Sunday, 11 AM, Stan Morris Reporting
After making contact with the family, NEA Report learned a different version of events from some of those who were there. His widow, Stacy, along with Israel’s mother and father all spoke to this reporter over the phone. The family disputes the version of events which were laid out in the statement from the prosecutor.
“I don’t want my husband’s name to be tarnished that way,” Stacy said. “I want them to know he was trying to get medical assistance and it didn’t happen.”
Stacy said Israel had come home Friday after picking up their daughter from school and she immediately knew something was wrong. He walked in the door, stiffened up, and fell down. He had apparently had difficulty when driving, too, his daughter said. Stacy thought he was having a seizure. He’d been hospitalized recently for AFib (Atrial fibrillation. An irregular heartbeat) and was on heart medicine.
“When he come in, he fell in the floor,” Stacy said. “I picked up the phone to call 911. When I turned around, he was gone. He was in the bedroom. He was face down. He had fell. His eyes were wide open and he was snoring.”
Gasping for air in a way that sounds like snoring is a sign of a cardiac event. Israel needed medical assistance, fast. Around that time, Ricky Porterfield, Israel’s dad, arrived. Stacy and her father-in-law were trying to roll Israel over but he kept trying to stand up. They tried to hold him down as they waited for responders in the rural community of Lunsford.
“About that time the Bay police officer arrived,” Stacy said. “He put on his gloves and walked up the steps and walked in.”
The officer and father were trying to hold Israel down but he was struggling. Stacy said the officer decided to handcuff him. He got one cuff, and was trying to get the other arm but he couldn’t get his hand.
“The officer was like, ‘If you do not be still, I’m going to tase you,” Stacy said. “My father in law told him to be still. That’s when the officer tased him.”
To be precise, what she described was the officer drive-stunning him with the taser. This is when they don’t actually fire the prongs into the skin, instead directly applying the electrical current from the device. The officer was able to get both handcuffs on Israel. But, the officer apparently left him on his stomach with his hands restrained behind his back for some time. It began to concern his wife, Stacy, who noticed his hands changing colors.
“I said his hands are white. Whats wrong with him?” Stacy said. “The officer said, ‘It’s the cuffs – he’s fine.’ But they finally roll him over. He wasn’t breathing.”
Both Stacy and Ricky told this reporter it was about five to ten minutes after that before the “actual first responders,” as they describe, arrived. During this time, they said the Bay officer never checked the man’s pulse or gave him CPR.
“EMS got there and didn’t feel a pulse,” Stacy said. “He wasn’t breathing. They started CPR. But they should have started it a long time before that!”
The family watched powerlessly as Israel was loaded into the ambulance and transported to a Jonesboro hospital. EMS worked on him the entire way. They tried to save his life but they couldn’t. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, the prosecutor’s statement said.
The family was told there would be an investigation into the incident. Israel’s body was sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for autopsy. Stacy took her family and left her home, since it was a potential crime scene.
Then, she made an unusual discovery after calling the sheriff’s investigators to ask if she could go back home.
“I contacted [Craighead County Sheriff’s Office] yesterday and asked if I was able to enter my home now,” Stacy said. “He said, ‘Oh yeah. That is fine. We’re just going to call this natural causes and move on.’ How does he know that? [The body of the deceased] is not back yet.”
It seemed to Stacy the investigation was over before it even began.
The situation was made worse when the statement was issued to NEA Report late Saturday stating that Israel went for an officers gun in a struggle. His family, who were there, say that did not happen.
Israel’s mother, Charlotte, described how hard it was to know the sorrow of losing a child. She described the grief as compounded by reading false statements about what happened.
“We feel they’re trying to cover up something they did that is wrong,” Charlotte said.
NEA Report is investigating this incident and will report any new findings as they are made available.