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Billings Police officer Sgt. Pat Curry testifies during a coroners inquest
Billings Police officer Sgt. Pat Curry testifies during a coroners inquest into the death of Ryan Bain on Tuesday.

An inquest into the death of a 31-year-old Billings man began Tuesday with testimony from 10 witnesses, including several police officers who described the man as having "superhuman strength."

Ryan Bain died Oct. 12, 2010, two days after violent struggles with police and jail officers. Officers used a stun gun on Bain four times.

The officers first encountered Bain as he ran naked through a Billings neighborhood late on the evening of Oct. 10.

Bain went into cardiac arrest at the county jail about an hour later, and he died at St. Vincent Healthcare about 43 hours later, after he was taken off life support.

The coroner's inquest, which is required any time a person dies in police custody, is expected to finish Wednesday afternoon. Big Horn County Coroner Terry Bullis is presiding over the hearing, which was attended Tuesday by numerous members of Bain's family.

The seven-member jury of six women and one man will provide an advisory verdict on whether Bain's death should result in criminal charges. Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito will make the final determination.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, officers involved in the incident gave similar accounts of Bain's bizarre and violent behavior. Several patrol car videos and videos from inside the county jail were shown to jurors during the day.

Sheriff's Deputy John Smith testified that he was off duty and on his way home at about 11:20 p.m. on Oct. 10 when he saw a naked man running through a neighborhood on 13th Street West.

Smith said he followed the man and called police dispatchers on his cell phone.

When the man ran inside a home, Smith said he was worried for the occupants and parked his van to check out the house.

As he approached the house, the naked man bolted from the front door and jumped into Smith's van, which he had left running.

Smith said he chased his van for several blocks before it stopped.

"He's crazy," Smith yelled into his cell phone as he watched his van being driven off, striking several parked cars along the way. "They're going to have to Tase this guy."

Bain stopped the van in the street, jumped out and began running around again, Smith said. As Bain ran by, Smith tackled him in a front yard just as Billings police Sgt. Pat Curry arrived.

The two men struggled with Bain to get him in handcuffs. Smith said Bain had "superhuman strength."

Curry, a former professional football player who said he weighs 330 pounds, told the jury he used his weight to pin Bain to the ground and get him handcuffed.

Officers Brandon Ihde, Nathan West and Tom Keightley showed up and walked Bain to a patrol car.

Bain appeared calm, telling officers he had been smoking methamphetamine and he wanted to "kiss his baby goodbye."

The officers said Bain began resisting again when sitting on the back seat. He kicked at the officers, arched his body and refused to pull his legs inside. Both Keightley and Ihde said they first tried using "distraction blows" to force Bain to comply. Ihde said he hit Bain in the leg about five times, and Keightley delivered about the same number of blows to Bain's ribs.  

Keightley said he then shocked Bain with his Taser to try to get Bain to stop kicking and pull his feet into the car, but the Taser was not effective. He applied the electric shock device to Bain's shoulder, he said.

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Ihde then used his Taser on the opposite shoulder with similar results. In one video, Bain can be heard screaming at least once while being shocked, though the officers said Bain did not stop resisting.

Ihde used his Taser again on Bain's leg, and again to no avail, he said. Finally, West pulled Bain into the back seat by reaching through the opposite door.  

Keightley drove Bain to the jail, and a video shows the man in the back seat constantly moving. Keightley said Bain admitted during the drive to having smoked methamphetamine. 

Another struggle ensued at the jail, where Bain resisted being placed into a restraint chair. County jail Sgt. Dan Rickett said he warned Bain before using his Taser to shock Bain in the leg.

Again, the shock had little effect, he said.

"He looked at me, that's about the effect it had," Rickett said.

Officers used physical force during a struggle that lasted about five minutes to get Bain secured in the chair. 

Jail nurse Rosemary Ganzeveld told the jury she checked Bain's blood pressure and pulse, which she said was elevated but did not concern her given reports of Bain's drug use and the fight she witnessed with officers at the jail.

Bain was wheeled into a holding cell. Several minutes later, as officers stood nearby, Bain became unresponsive and stopped breathing. West and others performed CPR before an ambulance crew arrived and took him took him hospital.

Several doctors who treated Bain, and the pathologist who performed the autopsy, are scheduled to testify Wednesday. 

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AFTERNOON UPDATE:

The inquest into the death of a 31-year-old Billings man began Tuesday morning with jurors hearing a detailed account of the incident from several witnesses.

Ryan Bain died Oct. 12, 2010, two days after a violent struggle with police and jail officers.

A seven-member cororner's inquest jury has been convened to provide an advisory verdict on whether Bain's death should result in criminal charges.

Several officers testified, including off-duty sheriff's Deputy John Smith, who was on his way home at about 11:20 p.m. on Oct. 10 when he saw a naked man running through a neighborhood on 13th Street West.

Smith said he followed the man and called police dispatchers on his cell phone. When the man ran inside a home, Smith said he was worried for the occupants and parked his van to check out the house. As he approached the house, the naked man bolted from the front door and jumped into Smith's van, which he had left running.

Smith said he chased his van for several blocks before it stopped.

"He's crazy," Smith yelled into his cell phone as he watched his van being driven off, striking several parked cars along the way.

"They're going to have to Tase this guy."

Bain stopped the van in the street, jumped out and began running around again, Smith said. As Bain ran by, Smith tackled him in a front yard just as Billings police Sgt. Pat Curry arrived.

The two men struggled with Bain to get him in handcuffs. Smith said Bain had "super-human strength."

 

A few minutes later, Bain appeared calm, telling officers he had been taking methamphetamine and he wanted to "kiss his baby goodbye."

 

As officers tried to get Bain inside a patrol car, a second struggle ensued, with two officers using a Taser on Bain three times to get him to stop struggling.

Bain was shocked a fourth time at the Yellowstone County jail, and moments later he became unresponsive. He died two days later.

 

The inquest hearing is expected to finish Wednesday afternoon, authorities said. Several members of Bain's family are attending the hearing.

 


MORNING REPORT:

The death of a Billings man in October after a violent struggle with police and jail officers will be explored during a coroner’s inquest scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The hearing is expected to include the findings of a Billings pathologist who determined that Ryan Michael Bain died of “excited delirium,” a controversial diagnosis often associated with a combination of drug use and electrical shocks from police stun guns.

Bain, 31, died on Oct. 12, two days after a bizarre and violent encounter with police that included the repeated use of a stun gun to subdue Bain, who was found running nearly naked through a Billings neighborhood at about 11:20 p.m.

Bain, wearing nothing but socks, struggled with several city police officers and an off-duty sheriff’s deputy when they tried to arrest him.

At the Yellowstone County Detention Facility a short time later, Bain was shocked again while struggling with jail officers. Authorities said he was then placed in a restraint chair and within minutes became unresponsive.

Bain was revived at the jail, but he died two days later at St. Vincent Healthcare.

A coroner’s inquest is required any time a person dies in police custody. A seven-member coroner’s jury will provide an advisory verdict to Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito on whether criminal charges should be filed in Bain’s death.

The hearing, which will be held in a courtroom at the county jail, could last up to three days. Big Horn County Coroner Terry Bullis will preside over the hearing, and Deputy County Attorneys Ed Zink and Ryan Nordland will call witnesses and present evidence.

Unlike a criminal trial, an inquest does not include the participation of a defense attorney who can call witnesses and subject prosecution witnesses to cross-examination. Jurors at the inquest, however, are allowed to ask questions during the hearing.

Authorities have not released any information about what may have caused Bain’s death or results of drug testing after his death.

Bain’s death certificate lists the primary cause of his death as “excited delirium,” followed by a secondary cause of “violent struggle.”

The certificate, signed by Yellowstone County Coroner Bill Jones, notes that the manner of Bain’s death was found to be accidental and that his injuries occurred as a result of a “a violent struggle with law enforcement following methamphetamine use.”

The certificate does not provide any further information related to Bain’s medical condition at the time of his death.

Bain’s family has declined to comment since the incident. State officials involved in the case have likewise declined comment about the finding that Bain’s death was the result of excited delirium.

But, according to a former police officer who now operates a Nevada consulting business known as the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, Bain’s death appears to be similar to other deaths across the country involving drug use and electric shocks from police stun guns.

John Peters Jr. has operated the consulting business since 2005 and previously worked as a police officer in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Peters said his business offers law enforcement agencies training on how to prevent citizen deaths, and he offers his experience as an expert witness at trials.

Peters described a complex series of physical conditions that can lead to death caused by excited delirium, including chronic drug abuse that results in chemical changes in the brain. People who suffer the condition can experience elevated body temperature and a psychotic episode that often includes a violent reaction to police intervention.

But the condition is not recognized by the American Medical Association, leading some to dispute its validity, especially when it is mentioned to explain deaths in cases where stun guns are used by police officers to subdue violent persons.

Peters said several wrongful-death lawsuits filed in recent years against the maker of the stun guns, Taser International, have failed to prove a link between their use and the deaths.

And studies of stun guns used in a “drive-stun” mode — where the cartridge of the device is removed and a shock is applied directly to an area of the body — have shown that the electric shock causes no harm beyond brief discomfort, Peters said.

Billings police officials have previously said that Bain was shocked three times during his arrest with a stun gun in the drive-stun mode, including twice in the upper back and once in the leg. A fourth shock at the jail was applied to his leg, authorities said.

Still, controversy follows the “excited delirium” diagnosis, Peters said, partly because scientific studies involving the application of electric shocks to living drug addicts cannot be done for obvious reasons.

How repeated electrical shocks may affect a person’s heart or other organs when they are under the influence of powerful drugs like methamphetamine is an open question, Peters said.

“The short answer is, nobody knows,” he said.

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Managing editor at The Billings Gazette.