Visiting Man Dies After Being Tased by Miami Dade Police


(MIAMI HERALD)   Willie Sams, studying to become a barber in a small Georgia town, was visiting his grandmother and father in Liberty City three weeks ago when he got into a confrontation with Miami-Dade police.

Just before 1 a.m. on Feb. 5, police responding to a domestic dispute call jolted Sams, 21, with an electronic control device, more commonly known as a Taser.

An hour later, doctors at Northshore Medical Center pronounced Sams dead.

“An encounter occurred between the officers and Mr. Sams. The officers deployed an electronic control device, striking Mr. Sams. MDFR [Miami-Dade Fire Rescue] was called to the scene and Mr. Sams was transported to North Shore Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.” That is the police statement on the death — and all authorities will say.

Cause of death has yet to be determined by the county’s medical examiner. That office continues to wait on findings from blood work and a toxicology report. The investigation remains open.

Sams’ mother, 40-year-old Lagayla Bennett, said she spent more than a week in Miami retrieving her son’s body, and buried him last Saturday in Georgia. She said she repeatedly called detectives to try and learn what happened.

“To this day no one has called me to say my son passed,” Bennett said. “Now I’m trying to track down his driver’s license.”

Bennett said her son was 200 hours short of receiving a technical degree to cut and style hair, and had done music production work. She also said Sams had no medical issues. He lived in Palmetto, Ga., a tiny town in the state’s northwest corner with a population of less than 5,000.

The Miami-Dade medical examiner has never determined that a Taser, an electronic device that hits the subject with barbs that can release up to 50,000 volts of electricity, has been responsible for a death. The device has been used by South Florida police agencies for about a decade.

Often, death is blamed on a state of “excited delirium,” and agitated condition that medical experts say causes a persons heart to race.

Family members Sams had been staying with in Miami did not respond to requests for interviews. No one responded to a note left on the front door of the Liberty City townhome in the 1600 block of Northwest 75th Street, where the Feb. 5 incident took place.

Neighbors there said they weren’t even aware of Sams’ death.

Latawya Willingham, 37, lives next door to the townhome. She said she doesn’t know her neighbors, and that people in the neighborhood mostly keep to themselves.

She said a commotion on the morning of Sams’ death startled her, and she took a look out her upstairs window.

“I saw they Tasered him, it was late,” Willingham said. “He fell, so I knew they didn’t shoot him. He’s dead? I didn’t know that.”

Bennett, Sams’ mother, remains miffed at Miami-Dade police.

“No one, as of today, has called me to say my son passed.” she said.


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