Denver Zoo death: Girlfriend disputes cops' tale about why Alonzo Ashley was tased (VIDEO)

Categories: News

alonzo ashley.jpg
Alonzo Ashley.
Yesterday, Denver Police said a man who died Monday at the Denver Zoo, now ID'd as Alonzo Ashley, went into such a cop-biting frenzy that he had to be contact-tased. But his girlfriend and family contend that he was merely suffering the effects of extreme heat when the situation spiraled out of control.

According to his girlfriend, who has asked not to be named, Ashley (nicknamed Tiger) got so overheated that he vomited. She adds that he was trying to cool down by splashing water on his head from a fountain near the elephant enclosure when a zoo staffer asked if he needed help. He allegedly responded by saying he wanted to be left alone, leading to calls to zoo security and Denver Police. She insists that no "domestic disturbance" of the sort cited by the DPD took place, and maintains that he didn't fight back against officers.

This account could hardly be more different from the one police have been sharing. They say Ashley attacked a zoo employee alerted by an argument with his girlfriend, and subsequently bit two people trying to subdue him, in addition to inflicting a head injury. Moreover, they describe him as so wild that contact tasing -- pressing the device directly against him, as opposed to shooting him with Taser barbs, which would have immobilized him entirely -- did nothing to slow him down. Only after he was belatedly brought under control did he begin convulsing, then stopped breathing. He died at a nearby hospital.

One more thing: Police say they found drugs and drug paraphernalia on Ashley, although they haven't specified more than that. His girlfriend insists he had no drugs on his person.

An autopsy is scheduled to take place today. With luck, it will shed more light on a scenario that seems to get more confusing the more we find out about it. Look below to see a 9News video about the latest developments, followed by our earlier coverage.

zoo fight july 18 2011.jpg
Video below.
Update, 1:25 p.m. July 19: The Denver Police Department has now confirmed that a man who died at the Denver Zoo yesterday amid what's being termed a domestic disturbance involving his girlfriend was tased prior to when he stopped breathing. However, DPD spokesman Sonny Jackson stresses that the incident involved "contact tasing" as opposed to being struck by Taser barbs. What's the difference?

Here's how Jackson explains it.

"A contact tasing is where you basically put the taser against the skin -- and it only affects that area," he says. "It doesn't necessarily affect the whole body. The other one, the one with the barbs that you shoot, they can't stand, and you can't touch someone if it's been deployed. Whereas contact tasing works locally on the area being touched, so you can get the person to comply."

According to the DPD account, compliance was in short supply during the incident. The man, who'd gotten into an argument with his girlfriend near the elephant enclosure, was reportedly acting irrationally and had already attacked a zoo security guard before the cops' arrival. He's said to have ignored their verbal commands, and when the officers tried to arrest him, he began biting, sinking his teeth into one cop and a zoo employee. One officer was also hit by the man, and another zoo staffer wound up with a head injury.

At that point, the Taser was drawn, but it seemed to have had no impact on the man. The DPD says he kept fighting for several more minutes before he could finally be taken into custody. At that point, however, he began to convulse and his breathing stopped.

Why was he behaving this way? An autopsy should shed light on that matter, but the DPD stresses that drugs and drug paraphernalia were recovered from the suspect.

Look below to see the original item, featuring video footage shot toward the end of the altercation.

Original item, 11:27 a.m. July 19: It's been a bizarre week at the Denver Zoo. Last week, Murray, a large cassowary -- a species reportedly dubbed "the world's most dangerous bird" by the San Diego Zoo -- escaped, causing part of the attraction to be closed prior to his recapture. Then, yesterday, a man collapsed and died after a domestic dispute and a scuffle with guards and police. Could he have been tased?

Reached earlier this morning, Denver Police Department spokesman Sonny Jackson said he still didn't have answers to that question or others related to the incident -- although he stressed that the investigation is ongoing. For now, that leaves us with the barest of information. According to 9News, DPD officers were called in regard to what's termed a "domestic dispute" near the area where the elephants are kept. There, the cops joined zoo security in breaking up a fight between a man and a woman.

The scuffle was apparently so heated that some of the personnel called to deal with the situation were injured -- but not as seriously as the man himself, who stopped breathing and couldn't be revived. He was pronounced dead after being transported to a hospital.

Jackson hopes to have more information soon, and when he does, we'll update this post. In the meantime, here's a 9News video that includes helicopter footage of the fight's aftermath.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Taser used to try to disable, kidnap woman? Denver Police on lookout for shocking suspect."

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21 comments
Josh
Josh

you dont even know what happend. You just follow the what the police say cause they have a badge. They have faults too, they are people, but go ahead and follow the herd.......ba ba ba ba sheeeeep

Jorge
Jorge

I hate cops as much as the next guy but hitting people for any reason will immediately get the heat on you. A black man in Denver should have known that, besides DPD sub station is literally a block from the zoo. Damn.

murmur55
murmur55

NEVER trust the police or DAs. They are manipulating the public to "awfulize the victim" by making it seem like he was under the influence of illicit drugs, was psychiatrically ill, or extremely violent. He was apparently delirious and should have been allowed ad lib access to water and freedom to move around so that he could cool off. The police are so poorly trained and caught up in their own importance that they think they have a right to interfere with basic life-enhancing actions. This is why understanding the consequences of restraint is so critical: people will naturally seek out solutions to maintain homeostasis. Examples include repositioning the body to be able to breathe better, taking clothing off if overheating, drinking and using water if experiencing heat stroke. There is no such thing as "excited delirium": this term is used to hide the extraordinary struggle that occurs when weight is placed on the chest wall interfering with ventilation of the lungs in order to reverse severe air hunger and the need to blow off co2.

Even if Mr. Alonzo Ashley was suffering from the above "bad" conditions, there is still NO excuse not to perform a proper restraint that does not cause suffocation or cardiac arrest. One should only restrain or arrest someone if there is adequate personnel; there should be no dropping onto the chest which can cause commotio cordis; the prone restraint position should be avoided as much as possible, there should be ABSOLUTELY no pressure placed on the chest wall which causes suffocation.

Google: "death in custody" with or without Taser use and you will find multiple examples of restraint asphyxia.

murmur55
murmur55

The death is a manslaughter or negligent homicide death and the DA knows it. This is a classic restraint death due to incompetent and overly aggressive police. Suffocation at the hands of the police on the ground is no different than drowning someone in water or strangling aroundPositional Asphyxia and Sudden Death http://bit.ly/fWyJKg the neck.

NYPD warning video: Positional asphyxia 2003 - YouTube http://bit.ly/smA0xj

DOJ warning in 1995: Positional Asphyxia and Sudden Death http://bit.ly/fWyJKg

Asphyxial death during prone restraint 21 cases... [Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2000] - PubMed http://1.usa.gov/uVtahV

Shorty_42102
Shorty_42102

Fuck pigs he was a good Guy and shouldn't have died because some pig On a power trip

murmur55
murmur55

"Police said that Alonzo Ashley continued to violently resist as officers attempted him to restrain him."    Whenever you see those words, think "restraint asphyxia". Sometimes people will be described as having "superhuman strength". No one likes to be controlled or restrained, especially if they are attempting to correct a physiological imbalance such as dehydration. Restraint should be avoided at all costs due to the potential lethality, especially at the hands of incompetent police officers. The techniques that LEOs use are highly lethal: throwing someone onto their chest, maintaining someone in prone restraint, controlling the body by putting pressure on the chest wall, and forcing compliance with beatings and taser, even though the person is suffocating. "Struggling with police" suggests all of these incompetent procedures. No one should be in the prone position for more than a few seconds. Suffocation, along with electrolyte disturbances, occur rapidly and often result in cardiac arrest.   Had the DA properly supported the citizens, and the ME properly described the mechanism of death, they would have demanded the usual charges when these restraint deaths occur: manslaughter or negligent homicide.   See NYPD training video on Positional asphyxia 2003 - YouTube http://bit.ly/smA0xj   Colorado police should learn Wyoming’s lesson - The Broadside : Colorado Springs Gazette, CO http://bit.ly/q0Euds  DOJ statement in 1995 on avoidable death in restraint or custody: Positional Asphyxia and Sudden Death http://bit.ly/fWyJKg

Mmurphy550
Mmurphy550

Believe her. He didn't say I'm a lion. His tongue was swelling and he said, "I'm dying." And he did. I'd be confused if twelve security guards came after me too. One man against twelve. Some contest.

Asd
Asd

I counted 14 law enforcement vehicles there for one domestic dispute.

... pathetic.

maaas
maaas

How many times on Cops do you see a woman defend her man after he beat her? 

MarbleTulipJuicyTree
MarbleTulipJuicyTree

The woman who was with this young man called the Tom Martino show today.  She said there was no domestic dispute and that the man was suffering heat stroke.  He became confused and irrational.  Check out the archive from the show today if you would like to hear her side of the story.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Strong take, Murmur. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks for reading and sharing your opinions.

Athleticgirl16
Athleticgirl16

The Denver Police does not just go around killing people that are innocent. They had a means and they took care of it the way they had to to keep everyone safe. He was in a family place for god sake. I can only imagine what could have happened if he would have hurt an innocent child at the zoo.

Athleticgirl16
Athleticgirl16

They get as many backups as they need. In a violent dangerous situation it's not ......pathetic...........

They are trying to look out for the safety of family at a family place.  I back up the zoo, police, and security gards 100%.

Hoodsteps
Hoodsteps

i bet he was really super strong to, maybe the cocaine there was no cocaine just away to have 8 people on top of you to take your life 

MarbleTulipJuicyTree
MarbleTulipJuicyTree

That is a good point.  Domestic situations are pretty shitty and if you watch COPS you will see people defend someone who just beat them.  How many times have we seen the City of Denver pay out large sums of money to people the police beat down or killed? 

Josh
Josh

you dont even know what happend. You just follow the what the police say cause they have a badge. They have faults too, they are people, but go ahead and follow the heard.......ba ba ba ba sheeeeep

Misfit
Misfit

Except that the DPD are corrupt and like all other law enforcers think that theyre above the law. The DPD is still undergoing a FBI investigation from a couple years ago, they probably killed "Tiger" because hes black.

Josh
Josh

you dont even know what happend. You just follow the what the police say cause they have a badge. They have faults too, they are people, but go ahead and follow the heard.......ba ba ba ba sheeeeep

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