Troy Goode, a healthy, 30-year old engineer with a wife and infant son, was, among many other things, a lifelong Widespread Panic fan. Like many who grew up listening to the band’s shows, and even those who grew up around a friend who constantly played the ‘Spread (perhaps to their annoyance), attending a Panic concert was a special event for Troy. And as he got older, as many of us find, the shows we are able to catch get fewer and farther between as life begins to turn that young man’s freedom to travel into a fond, distant memory.
Unfortunately, Troy and his wife had to leave the show early due to Troy’s apparent intoxication. Troy began acting erratically, exiting the vehicle at one point, and soon drew the attention of the Southaven, MS police. Chief Tom Long of Southaven PD says the authorities were told that Troy was experiencing an “alleged LSD overdose.” Certainly we await results of an autopsy and toxicology report – the most cursory internet search reveals the concept of an “overdose on LSD” to be pure misconception at best, and sinister propaganda at worst. A preliminary autopsy report indicates that Troy died from a heart-related issue.
According to the family’s lawyer, Tim Edwards, Troy was acting “erratically,” but was not violent when the police forcibly subdued him. Of course, police must take every precaution when approaching a potential suspect who appear to be on psychoactive drugs, are non-compliant and acting erratically. However, the manner in which Southaven PD subdued Troy is the real cause for concern. According to official police statements, eyewitness testimony, and cell phone video camera footage capturing the entire ordeal, what happened next was as follows:
• Troy was taken to the ground by an officer who then subdued him by sitting on his back;
• During his arrest, officers restrained Troy’s arms and legs by “hog-tying” them behind his back;
• Troy was then placed face-down on a stretcher;
• Troy reportedly communicated to officers multiple times that he was struggling to breathe (note – Troy had asthma);
• Troy was kept in this position (and thus not taken to the hospital) for over an hour, according to eyewitness reports.
The District Attorney John Champion refuses to say “hog-tied.” According to Champion, “… I refuse to use that term, because that’s not what this is.” Troy was placed in leg irons, which were then attached to the handcuffs he had on behind his back. Champion further stated that in his opinion, the way the officer used the leg irons on Troy was “within the law.” While I certainly hope Mr. Champion is incorrect about the legality of the use of leg irons and handcuffs in tandem behind a person’s back, even if he is correct, this practice should be reviewed given the risk of positional asphyxiation presented by “hog-tying” (I have no problem with using the term – I’ve seen a hog tied, and I am sorry to report that on video, it appears Troy was restrained in a very similar manner).
Troy was eventually taken to Baptist Hospital. After a couple of hours, Troy’s family got a call from the police, saying that Troy’s condition was “stable,” but that if any family showed up at the hospital to check on their family member, they would be arrested for “obstruction of justice.” Soon after this exchange, an employee of the hospital called the family to inform them that Troy had passed away.
This story has had a surprisingly mixed response in Alabama. While many express sympathy and extend condolences to the family of the deceased, some seem to take this opportunity to advance their “anti-drug” agenda, and others outright blame Troy for his own death. It’s this last group I’d like to address here:
You are essentially arguing that “if he hadn’t taken LSD, he wouldn’t be dead.” And in all likelihood, that is a true statement. But it is also a useless statement. It’s like saying “if I hadn’t bought her that car, she never would have died in that car crash.” The argument does away with the relevant proximate cause of the death, and substitutes what is known as actual, “but-for” cause. This second conception of causation is infinitely broader than proximate cause (ie the real reason Troy is dead v. the million different decisions he hypothetically could have made that day and ended up alive). In short, to blame Troy for his death because he took LSD is to ignore the most salient facts we have that offer a more plausible explanation for his death than “LSD overdose.” Between the anxiety of forcible restraint, the pre-existing asthma condition and ignored complaints from Troy that he couldn’t breathe, it appears his LSD intake (estimated as being 4-5 “hits”) is the least likely cause of his death.
The police have a difficult and dangerous job. They regularly encounter dangerous individuals on mind-altering substances. They are charged with the duty of enforcing the laws of their jurisdiction, but are not trained as lawyers. The police make mistakes. However, it appears this death was totally avoidable, and practices such as “hog-tying,” treatment complaints of asphyxiation, and police response to reports of people suspected of being on psychedelic drugs, are all issues that need to be examined. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Troy Goode. You can donate to Troy’s family at the link below: