Family blames Nampa police for death

The attorney general might review the case of Anthony Firkins, who was in police custody.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comOctober 24, 2013 

Family members of Anthony Firkins, 33, are seeking at least $500,000 in damages for what they claim was excessive force used by Nampa police.

Tort claims were filed last week on behalf of Firkins' wife, son and father. The claims, a precursor to filing a lawsuit in state court, name the city of Nampa, Canyon County, the Canyon County Ambulance District and Canyon County Paramedics.

The tort claims allege that Firkins suffered injuries throughout his body, including bruising and abrasions to his head, face, torso, arms and legs. They also allege that Firkins was struck multiple times with a Taser during an incident in April.

Canyon County authorities, who led the Critical Incident Task Force investigation into Firkins' death, have never said whether he was shot with a Taser. The assertions in the tort claims filed by Boise attorney Scott McKay are based upon autopsy photographs.

"(Firkins) died as a result of the violent and brutal actions by law enforcement personnel with the Nampa Police Department who utilized excessive force in their pursuit and apprehension of Mr. Firkins on that date," McKay wrote in the claims.

Julie Firkins, of Heyburn; 10-year-old Mason Firkins; and Anthony Firkins, of Rupert, have received very little information on the circumstances of Firkins' death, McKay wrote.

Authorities also have refused to identify the police officers involved in the pursuit and apprehension of Firkins, or the paramedics who treated him, according to the claims.

"It's an ongoing matter so we can't comment on it," said Kriss Bivens Cloyd, the attorney general's spokeswoman.

The findings from the task force investigation were forwarded to Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Taylor. He forwarded the file to the attorney general's office after declaring a conflict of interest because his office works on cases with Nampa police, county spokesman Joe Decker said.

Sharla Arledge, spokeswoman for the city of Nampa, declined to comment on the allegations, citing pending litigation. She said the claim has been turned over to the city's insurance company.

The claims allege that Canyon County Paramedics was complicit by failing to document and report the excessive use of force and by failing to provide proper care in response to Firkins' life-threatening injuries.

A call to Canyon County Paramedics on Wednesday afternoon went to voicemail.

On April 19, Nampa police responded to a report of a woman screaming near the corner of Hudson and Canyon streets. Officers who arrived at the scene witnessed a person driving a pickup recklessly and without lights.

After a pursuit that lasted several minutes, the driver, later identified as Firkins, lost control of the truck and crashed near 11th Avenue North and Industrial Road.

Firkins jumped a fence and tried to escape, police said. Officers later found him under a trailer.

Police said Firkins struggled with officers before they were able to take him into custody. He later stopped breathing. Medics attended to him, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

In June, Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris found that Firkins died from "excited delirium," a condition of high excitement. She said that acute methamphetamine intoxication also contributed to the death.

Excited delirium is marked by a sudden onset of agitation, aggression, distress and death, typically by cardiac arrest, according to a 2011 journal article published by an arm of the National Institutes of Health. It almost always takes place during a struggle with police.

The authors of the 2011 journal article, Drs. Asia Takeuchi and Sean Henderson, wrote that excited delirium is troubling because it is not a medical condition recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and does not appear on a list of diseases compiled by the World Health Organization.

They said the condition comes on quickly and is characterized by bizarre or aggressive behavior, shouting, paranoia, panic, violence and elevated body temperature.

Skeptics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say it's an easy way to explain away a death at the hands of police.

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