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OSP releases more details on St. Charles confrontation

By John Hendricks
Published On: Aug 30 2012 03:43:23 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 23 2012 09:03:43 PM CDT

(Aug. 21, 2012 video): NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks talks with the wife of a Bend man who died nine days after a confrontation with police at St. Charles Medical Center Bend

BEND, Ore. -

Oregon State Police on Thursday evening revealed more details on the events that took place Aug. 12 outside the St. Charles Medical Center-Bend emergency room in which they said a Bend police officer used a Taser and slapped a combative patient who died eight days later.

Here is the complete statement issued by the OSP and approved by the Deschutes County District Attorney's Office, which assisted in the investigation:

On August 12, 2012 at approximately 7:00 p.m., the Deschutes County 9-1-1 received numerous calls from employees within the Emergency Room (ER) at St. Charles Medical Center reporting a patient was out of control and physically assaulting the ER staff. The patient was later identified as Jerry J. Nichols, age 64, from Bend.

Nichols had been receiving medical treatment and was noted as having breathing issues at the ER just prior to and during the time he assaulted ER staff. Nichols then exited the ER.

At some time after Nichols exited the ER, he sat at a picnic table outside with a security officer.

Within minutes, Bend Police Officer Steve Craig arrived at the ER entrance in response to the 9-1-1 call.

Nichols left the table he was seated at, crossed into the parking area where Officer Craig was exiting his marked police vehicle and advanced toward the officer.

The officer initially attempted to verbally calm Nichols and asked him to sit back down to talk.

Based on video footage, it appears Nichols continued advancing toward the officer and he raises his fists.

Officer Craig retreated backwards but Nichols continued to advance toward him while punching at the officer.

At some point, Officer Craig deployed his Taser to stop Nichols, but the Taser was ineffective. Nichols continued to advance toward the officer.

The officer then used an open hand strike and struck the left side of Nichols' head with the palm of his hand to stop Nichols' attempted assault.

Nichols fell backward and downward, landing in a seated position on the ground.

Nichols then fought with Officer Craig and a medical staff member as they tried to place Nichols in custody to prevent further incidents.

Nichols was restrained shortly thereafter. At this time, Nichols stopped breathing and lifesaving procedures were administered by medical personnel.

Nichols was revived and admitted to St. Charles Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition for several days.

Nichols died at 4:34 p.m., on August 20, 2012 while at St. Charles Medical Center.

An autopsy was conducted on August 21, 2012 by the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office. The results of the autopsy are pending.

Officer Stephen Craig has 26 years of service as a police officer, of which 13 years of service have been with the City of Bend.

Oregon State Police jointly worked with Bend Police Department on the investigation. The Deschutes County District Attorney's Office assisted with the investigation. Any further questions should be directed to the Deschutes County District Attorney's Office.

(Bend police Lt. Paul Kansky referred questions to the DA's office, but did confirm to NewsChannel 21 that the officer involved has not been placed on paid administrative leave.)

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Earlier story:

The family of a Bend man who was Tasered by police at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend and died nine days later is speaking out as they wait for more answers on what happened

Barbara Nichols told NewsChannel 21 Tuesday evening that her husband, Jerry, was a loving and caring man who would not hurt anyone.

"He wouldn't hurt a fly," said Nichols, "He did not want to have to fight with anybody, he was just not that kind of person."

Nichols flipped through a photo album and recounted the memories she had with her husband of 15 years, a retired California construction worker.

"The camping trips wed use to go on, and we went fishing," said Nichols. "We took our friends along because we had a fifth wheel, we had a boat -- we did a lot of things together."

She says her husband loved to fish and hunt, and was an avid outdoorsman.

On Sunday, Aug. 12th, Nichols says her husband, who suffered from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), was feeling ill, so she took him to the hospital. He was admitted, and while he was being checked out in the emergency room, Bend police say he became combative with hospital staff.

Police said in a news release late Friday that Nichols had gone out of the hospital and confronted an arriving police officer in a threatening manner. They said the officer first unsuccessfully tried to use a Taser, then used an "open hand strike."

"They said they Tased him, and then he collapsed and his heart stopped," said Barbara Nichols. "So they came out and resuscitated him, and they had him on the ventilator when they came out and told me."

Nichols says her husband, 64, was a caring man who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after time spent serving as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

"He just couldn't get over things he did" during the war, said Nichols. "He was very religious, he went to church a lot. He did it (went to Vietnam) because he believed in his country. He just didn't like that he had to kill all those people."

As Nichols flipped through the book of pictures, she said she will always remember her husband's big heart and caring spirit.

"Anybody who wanted anything," Nichols said. "He was always willing to help anybody to do anything, He had a big heart and was very kind."

She added Jerry would give the shirt off his back to help anyone, even if they had just met.

Bend police and a Deschutes County deputy district attorney said they could not comment further about what happened until they get the medical examiner's report on Nichols' body. They said that could take months.

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