Death Of Suspect Tasered By Police Ruled Homicide

An autopsy has ruled the death of a Smithfield man who died after being tasered by police as a homicide.  It also shows the suspect had drugs in his system.

The medical examiners report has also revealed new details about the incident that led up to a high speed chase and the eventual death of Alexander Warren Thompson, 37, of Braswell Road, Smithfield.

The report, obtained by WTSB News, said the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office was staking out a suspected drug house on March 3rd when Thompson went to the home and left. When officers attempted to stop his truck he fled.

Thompson reportedly led officers from several departments on a high speed chase before crashing his pickup truck on US 70 East of Smithfield. During some type of confrontation with Kenly police officer Jesse Santifort, Thompson was tasered 4 times and stopped breathing. He died three days later at Wake Medical Center.

The report said officers saw Thompson “consume some type of red liquid and then flee on foot.”   The barbs from the taser fired by police struck Thompson in the chest area. A total of 4 shocks were applied.  Thompson then fell forward, rolled onto his back, and became unresponsive.  He was never restrained by officers and no handcuffs were applied.

At the hospital a drug screen detected amphetamines and cannabinoids.

The coroner ruled Thompson’s death was caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain following “conducted electrical weapon application” with acute methamphetamine intoxication and thickening of the myocardium of the left ventricle of the heart. “The manner of death is classified as a homicide,” according to the 7 page report signed by Dr. Craig Nelson.

District Attorney Susan Doyle said the medical examiner’s homicide ruling was for their classification purposes only. “It is not a legal term within the criminal law context.”

Doyle said she has not received an SBI report on the incident but believes it will be turned over to her office in a matter of weeks, at which time she will begin her review of the case. Doyle will decide if Thompson’s death was justified.

Immediately after the pursuit, the Johnston County District Attorney’s Office blocked the release of police radio traffic for 30 days.  WTSB obtained a copy of the audio after the court order was lifted. It revealed Officer Santifort made a questionable comment about Thompson after tasering him. “…he’s a little electrified at this moment but I uh think we’ve come to an understanding.”

Moments later Santifort asked for an ambulance, then an officer is heard saying CPR was in progress.  Santifort was initially placed on administrative leave after the chase but returned to work and was promoted to a detective on the Kenly police force. Photos by John Payne