MALTBY — The death of a Maltby-area man during a struggle with police March 22 has been ruled an accident. Alexander W. Dold, 29, reportedly was having a mental health crisis that prompted a call to 911.
Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies were told of potential domestic violence at the family’s home near Echo Lake Road. Dold experienced heart problems when police tried to take him into custody. The deputies repeatedly asked for backup during the incident in a rural area south of Snohomish.
The heart trouble was a factor in the death, along with schizophrenia, the confrontation with police and the use of an electronic stun gun, according to the county Medical Examiner’s Office. The finding was announced Thursday. A separate investigation continues into the use of potentially fatal force.
The incident started when a neighbor told 911 she heard shouting next door.
Around 9:15 p.m., Dold’s mother stepped out of her house to call police. She said her son, who was living with schizophrenia, had not taken his medication in months. Dold reportedly gave her a fat lip, tipped over a chair she was in and ripped a lanyard from her neck, according to the 911 call recording. He was not normally violent, and he was scared of police, his mom told the dispatcher.
It took additional officers about eight minutes to reach the scene. About 12 minutes after deputies initially called for help, Dold stopped breathing.
His family is involved with mental health advocacy groups. They have not been available for interviews with the newspaper since the death.
The Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a task force of detectives from around the county, has been investigating. The team’s cases are forwarded to Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe, who determines whether the use of force was justified. The case can’t be closed without the ruling from the medical examiner.
After Roe’s determination, police departments generally conduct internal reviews to see if policies were followed. It can take years before those findings become public.
In recent times, law enforcement leaders have worked to educate their staff about the dangers of dealing with people in crisis. The combination of mental illness and a physical struggle can be deadly for both sides, even when officers draw weapons that aren’t designed to be lethal. Heart problems were linked to local in-custody deaths in 2012 and in November. The 2012 case in which a stun gun was used led to the county paying the man’s family a $600,000 settlement.
Deaths involving police often lead to litigation.
Cecil Lacy Jr., 50, suffered a heart attack in September 2015 during a confrontation with a sheriff’s deputy and two Tulalip tribal police officers.
Roe issued a decision months later, saying Lacy’s death was a tragic accident but did not involve a crime. Lacy’s family has filed a lawsuit accusing the sheriff’s office of negligence and excessive force.
The lawsuit was started in September in King County Superior Court. Snohomish County filed its answer earlier this week, records show.