Fairfax County Chief of Police Col. Edwin C Roessler, Jr appears in a July 13, 2015 video explaining the timeline and investigative process surrounding the in-custody death of Natasha McKenna on Feb. 8, 2015.
Natasha McKenna died while in the custody of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Department on Feb. 8, 2015. A Sheriff’s deputy and member of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team used a conductive energy device on her multiple times while other members of the team attempted to restrain her for transport from the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center to the City of Alexandria, where a felony warrant had been issued for her arrest.
The April 28 autopsy report from the Office of the Medical Examiner stated McKenna’s cause of death to be “Excited delirium associated with physical restraint including use of conductive energy device, contributing: Schizophrenia and Bi-Polar Disorder.” The manner of her death, it said, was “Accident.”
Just over five months later, the Fairfax County Police Department’s Major Crimes division has completed an investigation of McKenna’s death and turned the report over to the office of the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney “for review and determination of criminal liability,” according to a July 13 release from police.
Fairfax County Chief of Police Col. Edwin C Roessler, Jr announced the update in a July 13 video. With over nine minutes in front of the camera, Roessler reviews the timeline of events leading up to and including McKenna’s death, as determined by investigators who worked on the report.
- Jan. 15, 2015: Alexandria City police “came into contact” with McKenna and resulting from a call for service issued a felony arrest warrant against her for “assaulting a law enforcement officer.”
- Jan. 20, 2015: McKenna’s arrest warrant was formally issued.
- Jan. 25, 2015: McKenna called the Fairfax County Department of Public Safety and Communications alleging she was the victim of an assault. A Fairfax County Police officer responded, helped her begin a report and took her to be examined at a local hospital. Detectives and victims services specialists also went to the hospital to help begin an investigation into the alleged assault. McKenna then said she didn’t want to continue to pursue any investigation or police involvement. While at the hospital, Fairfax County police learned about the warrant for McKenna’s arrest.
- Jan. 26, 2015: McKenna was processed at the county’s Adult Detention Center for service of the warrant early in the morning. Later that morning, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Department contacted the City of Alexandria about transporting her back into their jurisdiction.
- Jan. 31, 2015: The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office reported McKenna physically assaulted a deputy while in the Fairfax County jail.
- Feb. 3, 2015: McKenna was scheduled to be transported to the City of Alexandria. Because she had been combative, the Sheriff’s office followed protocols to have the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team remove McKenna from her cell to be transported. The team included six sheriff’s deputies, two of whom were supervisors.
As they attempted to restrain her and remove her from her cell, McKenna physically resisted the team. While she was resisting, Roessler said, one of the team members “deployed an electronic control weapon multiple times.” They also put a “spit net” on her to keep her from spitting at the deputies. Initially, a nurse on the scene cleared McKenna medically for transportation.
McKenna continued to be combative and was further restrained as the deputies moved her to the “Sally Port,” or transition area. At that point, medical personnel determined she was experiencing “a medical emergency” and began using both CPR and an Automated External Defibrillator on McKenna. An ambulance took her to the hospital and she was put on life support.
- Feb. 8, 2015: The Sheriff’s Office told Fairfax County Police McKenna was being taken off life support and that the Major Crimes department would need to investigate an in-custody death. McKenna died that Sunday.
The investigation took place over the next five months, Roessler said, and included over 50 interviews and re-interviews of the Sheriff’s staff and first responders. They also arranged for “forensic independent testing and analysis of the electronic control weapon,” Roessler added, “to determine if it was working in accordance with the manufacturer specifications and to validate the number of times it deployed.”
Video of McKenna being restrained and shot with the conductive energy device exists, though it has not been released due to being evidence in the investigation.
“Any death is tragic,” Roessler said at the conclusion of the video. “Ms. McKenna’s is understandably devastating to her family and the community. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, the community and all involved.”