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Police action led to man's heart arrhythmia in theater scuffle, Oklahoma medical examiner says

Luis Rodriguez, of Norman, died from a cardiac arrhythmia brought on by physical restraint after he was handcuffed and detained by Moore police outside the Warren Theatre in February.
by Jennifer Palmer Modified: April 2, 2014 at 9:49 pm •  Published: April 2, 2014

A moviegoer died in February because physical restraint by police brought on a heart condition know as cardiac arrhythmia, the state medical examiner reported Wednesday.

The Feb. 15 death of Luis Rodriguez, 44, was ruled a homicide due to the physical struggle and police restraint associated. The medical examiner cautioned that the ruling of homicide doesn’t imply wrongdoing or criminal intent.

Rodriguez died following a scuffle with five law enforcement officers in the parking lot at the Warren Theatre. The officers used pepper spray and handcuffs to subdue him.

The report by the medical examiner determined his death was caused by “cardiac arrhythmia due to physical restraint.” An arrhythmia is an irregular heart beat. Contributing factors were an enlarged heart and left ventricular hypertrophy.

No drugs or alcohol were found in Rodriguez’s blood, the report states. Bruises and minor injuries were found — evidence of the struggle — but those injuries were not sufficient to cause Rodriguez’s death, the examiner found.

Cellphone video taken by Rodriguez’s wife documented some of the incident. The six-minute video, which was made public, starts with Luis Rodriguez seen face-down in the parking lot crying out “I can’t breathe!” He had an officer’s knee on his back and other officers holding his arms and legs.

Video not released

Three Moore Police Department officers and two off-duty game wardens were involved. The game wardens and one of the officers were working security for the theater. Surveillance video from the theater’s parking lot has not been released.

Moore Police Chief Jerry Stillings has said he believes the officers acted appropriately. An agency spokesman Wednesday released a statement saying the department has reviewed the autopsy report.

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by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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