Probe after death of disabled dementia patient Tasered by police

The police watchdog is investigating whether two Sussex Police officers used excessive force against 93-year-old Donald Burgess.

04 August 2022

The police watchdog has launched an investigation after the death of a 93-year-old disabled care home resident, who was Tasered and pepper sprayed by officers.

Police had tried to detain Donald Burgess, who was wheelchair-bound, had one leg and suffered from dementia, following a report he had threatened care staff with a knife.

Two officers from Sussex Police attended the home, in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, on June 21.

One of them used Pava spray, which is similar to pepper spray, while the other deployed a Taser. The knife was then removed from Mr Burgess and he was handcuffed.

He was taken to hospital, where he remained until his death three weeks later on July 13.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating whether the allegations of use of excessive force by the officers amount to criminal manslaughter after Sussex Police referred itself to the watchdog.

IOPC regional director Graham Beesley said: “I want to express my sympathies to the man’s relatives and those who knew him.

“We have advised his next of kin of our independent investigation and explained the steps we will be taking.

“This will include investigating whether the force used by the two officers against this male was reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the circumstances and in line with local and national policies, procedures and guidance.”

So far the IOPC investigation has included taking witness statements, reviewing the officers’ body-worn footage, and attending the post mortem examination on July 21. The cause of Mr Burgess’s death is not yet known.

Gross misconduct notices have been served on the two officers involved, both police constables, with letters advising them they are under criminal investigation for manslaughter.

The IOPC says these actions do not necessarily mean disciplinary proceedings or criminal charges will follow.

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