A man who burst into flames as a police officer tasered him died weeks later in New York, according to officials.
Whether “an officer caused the death” is being assessed by the state’s attorney general’s office of special investigation, according to a news release.
Jason Jones was hospitalized since an officer used a taser to “subdue him, setting him on fire” after stepping into the police department of the Village of Catskill in the early morning of Oct. 30, the attorney general’s office said in the Dec. 16 release.
He died Dec. 15 at a Syracuse area burn unit after spending weeks “in intensive care,” Jones’ lawyer, Kevin Luibrand, told McClatchy News in a statement.
When Jones entered the police department on Oct. 30, he “allegedly sprayed hand sanitizer on his body and head,” according to the attorney general’s office.
The 29-year-old confronted officers after leaving a nearby bar, the Green County District Attorney Joseph Stanzione told the Times Union.
Luibrand said he now believes “the police knew that Jason had flammable sanitizer on his skin when they shot him with up to 50,000 volts of electrical current inside the police station.”
Hand sanitizer contains ethyl alcohol, “which readily evaporates at room temperature into an ignitable vapor, and is considered a flammable liquid,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jones was “experiencing a mental health episode,” according to Luibrand, who said the act was a “use of deadly force” that was “not warranted for an unarmed man.”
Catskill Police Chief Dave Darling said he believed the officers who were present during the incident were “afraid” Jones “was going to hurt himself, and that’s what started it,” according to the Times Union.
Police declined a request for comment from McClatchy News and referred inquiries to Stanzione’s office, and Stanzione confirmed the office “has been investigating the matter,” in a statement.
Since Jones died, the case was sent to the attorney general’s office “for further review and investigation” as “part of the law recently passed involving deaths of unarmed persons due to interaction with law enforcement,” Stanzione said.
Under New York’s law, the state attorney general’s OSI “assesses every incident reported to it where a police officer or a peace officer, including a corrections officer, may have caused the death of a person, by an act or omission,” according to the release.
“If OSI’s assessment indicates an officer caused the death, OSI proceeds to conduct a full investigation of the incident.”
Catskill — a village of about 3,800 — is 124 miles north of New York City.