Inquest told Dundalk man who was pepper sprayed by Gardai died from a cocktail of drugs

A DUNDALK a man who ran naked down the Avenue Road and collapsed after being pepper sprayed by a garda, died from a cocktail of drugs that included ecstasy, amphetamine and an hallucinogenic horse tranquiliser, an inquest heard last week.

A DUNDALK a man who ran naked down the Avenue Road and collapsed after being pepper sprayed by a garda, died from a cocktail of drugs that included ecstasy, amphetamine and an hallucinogenic horse tranquiliser, an inquest heard last week.

The jury was told that Mark Ward of Seafield Lawns, Dundalk, had no pulse and was not breathing, when paramedics arrived at the scene on 28 June last year and was pronounced dead at Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda.

The inquest heard how the 32-year-old had stripped off in the Greenacres area.

In a deposition, one witness who had been returning to her home, said she heard shouting and when she looked around she saw a man with no shirt ‘shouting and running’. She said he ‘wasn’t right’ and told how he dropped his trousers, pulled off his pants and socks and turned around, covered his genitals with his hands and ran off towards the shopping centre.

She said the man had blood on his face.

The next witness Peter Sloane told how he had been working with his sister Margaret in the family shop around 9.35/9.45pm. He said there were two children in the shop choosing sweets at the counter and when he looked towards the door “there was a man there. He was naked”.

He said the man’s face was bloodied and he did not say anything. Mr Sloane said: “I said what the f*** are you at” and added that the man took a “Sorry you’re leaving” greetings card and left.

Mr Sloane said the man was not threatening and he followed him. When Mr Sloane caught up with him he stopped running and dropped the card on the ground.

He said Mark Ward was ‘uncooperative’ with a plain clothes garda who arrived on the scene and had tried to “talk him down”.

Mr. Sloane said when he got up close he recognised the man who “told me I knew who his parents are”.

The witness said Mark Ward knew who he was “and knew who I was”. He added the blood on his face was like a stain and he did not think the 32-year-old was bleeding.

The plain clothes officer in question, Det. Garda Paul Flynn, told the hearing that a call about “a naked man on the street” came through on the 999 system and he decided to go assist his colleagues who were on patrol.

He said on arrival he saw a naked man with dark hair going into Sloane’s shop and he estimated the man was in there about 10 seconds before he came out with a card in his hand.

The garda said there was a mixture of wet and dried blood on the man’s face and he heard the shop owner shout “Stop”.

The officer - who said he was also shouting “Stop Gardai”, told the inquest that Mark Ward “was making growling and roaring sounds” at him. He said he had used “open-handed non-threatening gestures” towards the 32-year-old who he said swung a clumsy punch at him and continued to be aggressive - leading to him using the spray twice.

The jury heard the man fell onto the path and was feeling around saying “I can’t see”.

Det. Garda Flynn said one of his colleagues who arrived on the scene had attempted to put a white forensic suit on Mark Ward who he said began “to lash out - kicking and roaring”.

He said his baton was never used as it remained in his patrol car at all times and added he had been wary of putting the handcuffs on too tight.

The inquest heard Mark Ward ended up face down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back and gardai borrowed bungy-type ties in an effort to stop him kicking out but there was no way to secure them.

The jury was told Mark Ward became unresponsive shortly before an ambulance arrived at the scene and efforts to resuscitate continued en route to Our Lady of Lourdes hosptial in Drogheda - with a garda driving the ambulance, so both paramedics could do CPR.

Paramedic Tony Murphy said as he approached Mark Ward a garda told him: “I don’t think he’s breathing”. He said the man’s face was blue, he wasn’t moving and he spotted a little trickle of blood.

Mr. Murphy said there was no pulse and he called for his colleague to bring a defibrillator. When Mr Ward’s brother Paul asked if Mark had ever started breathing Mr Murphy replied “no”.

Paul Ward remarked: “you took a dead man to the Lourdes” while his mother said she had walked the street wondering where her son had died.

Sgt. Eugene Collins said when he arrived at the scene there were four gardai each holding one of Mr Ward’s extremities. He was not handcuffed at the stage and the situation was under control “and no excessive force was being used”.

He said he thought the man was ‘a troubled individual’ and contacted the garda station to get them to call an ambulance. Sgt. Collins said while the 32-year-old continued to struggle he did not see gardai use any force downards on his body.

Garda Darren Tuffy who later drove the ambulance to Our Lady of Lourdes hospital said when he arrived at the scene Mark Ward pulled his hands away and pressed them on his eyes and appeared to be in discomfort.

The garda said nothing Mr Ward was shouting made sense and he was incoherent. He added he was surprised by Mr. Ward’s strength and had difficulty restraining him.

Garda Tuffy said that all the force used was proportional to the level of resistence.

State Pathologist Prof. Marie Cassidy gave evidence that the cause of death was ecstasy, amphetamine, mephadrone, ketamine and cocaine intoxication and said there was no evidence to suggest that he had been asphyxiated.

The inquest also heard that she identified a number of bruises in addition to abrasions on the face, elbows, knees, feet and centre of the back. She added the grazing most likely occured when Mr Ward was on the ground and the bruising could have been caused as gardai attemped to control and restrain him although she stressed that the death was not trauma related.

Professor Cassidy said that blood samples confirmed that the 32-year-old had taken a lethal cocktail of drugs, which she said were from a group of drugs that can cause sudden death.

The hearing was told that Mr Ward had taken an anaesthetic more commonly used by vets which could result in symptoms of delerium and irrational behaviour and she said that ketamine may have been responsible for his unusal behaviour.

When Mr Ward’s family pointed out that he had been speaking to his mother by phone within an hour of the incident and had appeared perfectly normal. Prof. Cassidy said the drugs in question have a rapid and instant reaction and it was very likely he had not taken them at that point.

The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure where an intended action has unintended consequences.

The dead man’s family - who throughout the inquest challenged the level of garda force used, said at the end of the hearing that the town is ruined with drugs - and they didn’t want someone else to die in the same manner.

Louth County Coroner Ronan Maguire also made a general reccommendation that gardai be provided with appropriate leg restraints such as velcro-fastened ones which are used in other countries.

He extended his sympathy to the family as did Darren Wright of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commision.