Kelley Chase, 38, was hours away from completing a police academy training course when his head hit the mat.
Chase would not get up again. The Oklahoma City police recruit and Air Force veteran was taken to a hospital Friday afternoon. He underwent surgery, was placed on life support and died Saturday morning.
Chase was working with an instructor on routine self-defense tactics when the freak accident happened, police said.
The state medical examiner will have to determine the exact cause the death, Capt. Dexter Nelson said Monday.
Forty-seven recruits in the police academy class began training in May, Nelson said. Each one passed an extensive physical exam.
At the time of the accident, Chase was undergoing a test on the last day of a two-week self-defense techniques course. During the six-minute rotation of simulated fights, he went to the ground several times with different instructors, hitting his head on a mat.
“They want to see if the person can work with a combatant over a period of time and be able to keep their wits about them,” Nelson said.
It's an exercise in specific tactics and endurance, but also restraint; recruits should use force, but not too much of it, as they try to handcuff an attacker.
The recruits do not wear helmets or other head gear during the exercises.
When Chase hit the ground a final time, he did not get up. Nurses on standby at the training facility, 800 N Portland Ave., evaluated him. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
It's not uncommon for recruits to injure themselves over 28 weeks in academy, but this is the first time the training resulted in the loss of a cadet's life, Nelson said.
The other recruits were debriefed Monday and met with the police chaplain and other staff regarding the death. Officers wore black bands over their badges; department flags flew at half-staff.
Chase leaves behind a wife of four years and their two children, ages 2 and 3.
He hoped a career as a police officer would allow for more time with his family after a 15-year career in the Air Force, Nelson said. Chase left the Air Force in 2011; he had been stationed at Tinker Air Force Base.
Nelson said it's too early to say whether the incident will prompt training changes for future police academy classes. An internal investigation into the incident is ongoing, he said.