Police: Man dies after fight with Suffolk officers

Suffolk police discuss the Wednesday night incident in which an emotionally disturbed man died after police officers used stun guns and pepper spray in an effort to subdue him during a confrontation inside the Catholic group home where he lived in Middle Island, police said. Videojournalists: James Carbone and Stringer News Service (July 25, 2013)

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A Middle Island man died Wednesday night after Suffolk police said he kicked and bit three officers trying to subdue him with stun guns and pepper spray at the group home where he lived.

Dainell Simmons, 29, was pronounced dead at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, shortly after police said he fought for 10 minutes with three officers responding to a call he was causing a disturbance.

"He was acting out initially with the staff," said Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, commander of the Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad.

"He ran through the house, throwing himself against the wall."

Suffolk police were summoned to the Maryhaven Center for Hope group home in Middle Island at 8:18 p.m. after the staff was unable to bring Simmons under control, Fitzpatrick said.

Simmons, who stood 5 feet 9 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 240 pounds, had been causing a disturbance at the facility for nearly 30 to 40 minutes before staff called 911, Fitzpatrick said.

By the time officers arrived, Simmons -- a resident at the home for the past six years -- had calmed down and was sitting on a couch in the living room, Fitzpatrick said.

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Officers told Simmons they were placing him in handcuffs and taking him to a psychiatric emergency facility and that is when Simmons became violent again and attacked the officers, Fitzpatrick said.

"He was kicking, biting, pinching. Any way he could get at the officers," Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick gave the following account of what happened next:

The officers hit Simmons with the stun guns at least twice and he was eventually subdued and handcuffed.

At the time he was handcuffed, Simmons was conscious and communicative.

Minutes later when an ambulance arrived, Simmons became unresponsive and he was transported to the hospital where he died.

The officers and staff at the group home told authorities that they were not certain if both prongs of the weapons touched Simmons' skin, Fitzpatrick said. Both prongs on the stun gun need to make contact with the body to effectively stun the subject.

"Until data from the Tasers are analyzed, we don't know if an electrical current was administered into Mr. Simmons," said Fitzpatrick.

Catholic Health Services, which runs the group home, declined to be interviewed and issued a statement about the confrontation.

"Maryhaven Center of Hope extends their deepest sympathy to this family. As this is an active police investigation, we cannot comment further."

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The Suffolk County medical examiner will perform an autopsy to determine a cause of death, police said. The results are expected in a few days, police said.

The officers, Fitzpatrick said, complied with departmental rules regarding the use of stun guns.

"It's tragic all around," he said.

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