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Pinellas Park man shot by Taser drowns in pond

PINELLAS PARK — A 34-year-old Pinellas Park man drowned after being hit with a Taser and crawling into a pond during a police chase early Sunday, according to police.

A Police Department spokesman said the death was accidental, and none of the officers involved would be put on leave.

At 12:19 a.m., police received an emergency call for a domestic dispute in the area of 43rd Street and 70th Avenue N.

Police found Dale Lee Mitchell leaving a wooded area and began questioning him. They determined he lived at the location of the 911 call and was involved in some kind of disturbance.

While questioning him, police said, they saw Mitchell toss some pills on the ground. As they tried to identify the pills, he fled, according to police.

He ran through the neighborhood before entering his back yard at 4316 70th Ave. N.

Officer Matthew Patsch, 32, caught up to Mitchell as he was climbing a 4-foot fence separating the yard and the pond, said police spokesman Capt. Sanfield Forseth. The officer fired a Taser, and Mitchell fell and rolled on the ground, dislodging the Taser wires.

Forseth said it was unknown whether both barbs of the Taser struck Mitchell, which would have been required for the stun gun to work. That will have to be determined by a Medical Examiner's Office examination, he said.

Police said Mitchell crawled into the pond, then moved into deeper water. Officers said he disappeared under the water.

Cpl. Cassidy Perry, 35, went into the pond, but couldn't find him. Forseth said Perry waded in up to his neck in the attempt.

A fire department dive team found Mitchell at 2:40 a.m. He was pronounced dead.

Police said the initial domestic dispute was between Mitchell and his live-in girlfriend.

That girlfriend, Janitta Leaks, told Bay News 9 she believed police were responsible.

"I believe they just let him die, I really do," she said. "It took them at least a good hour before the scubas got in there."

Pinellas Park police officers use the X26 Taser, which fires two probes that carry electrical pulses to a suspect's body.

Officers are authorized to use the weapon whenever the use of other control techniques will most likely result in a physical confrontation that may injure an officer or the person being taken into custody.

Pinellas Park man shot by Taser drowns in pond 03/20/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 20, 2011 9:13pm]
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