Death of man in police custody on Tulalip reservation ruled an accident

TULALIP — Snohomish County’s chief medical examiner has concluded the September death of a man in police custody on the Tulalip Indian Reservation was an accident.

Dr. Daniel Selove said he relied on police and medical investigative reports as well as autopsy and toxicology results in reaching his conclusion.

Cecil D. Lacy Jr., 50, died Sept. 18 after a late-night struggle with officers in the 6400 block of Marine Drive.

Selove attributed Lacy’s death to a heart attack due to methamphetamine in his system and several health-related factors. Those include an enlarged heart, obesity, hypertension, diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as well as the struggle with police.

His family said Friday it is too early to draw any conclusions about Lacy’s death.

Two Tulalip Tribal Police officers and a Snohomish County Sheriff’s deputy were responding to a report of a man walking in the road the night Lacy died. He was detained and taken into protective custody to get him out of the road, officials said.

Officers reported that Lacy started fighting with them as they tried to put him into a patrol car. Lacy became unresponsive during the altercation and died.

The death continues to be investigated by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a cadre of detectives from around the county called in after officer-involved deaths.

Lacy’s family has been working with the Seattle law firm of Galanda Broadman to navigate its way through the investigation process.

On Friday, the family issued a statement.

“It is premature to draw any definitive conclusions regarding the death of our loved one,” the statement said. “There remain far more questions than answers about the circumstances of his death.

“We appreciate that local detectives are investigating what happened to him while in tribal and county police custody on the night he died. We will continue to suspend judgment until better information is available about the cause of his death.”

Selove said he considered the possibility Lacy’s death included “excited delirium,” an extremely agitated state often associated with deaths in police custody. An FBI bulletin describes it as “a serious and potentially deadly medical condition involving psychotic behavior, elevated temperature, and an extreme fight-or-flight response by the nervous system.”

Selove said Lacy’s death “has some features of that, but it did not classically fit that definition.”

The medical examiner said other professionals could reach different conclusions.

“This is not a black and white case,” he said.

Police used an electronic stun gun to try to subdue Lacy.

“It would have caused pain locally in the area of contact,” Selove said. “It would not have affected the heart rhythm.”

Lacy had been a commercial fisherman who once worked for the tribes recreation department, according to his obituary. He also enjoyed writing.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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