The Spokane medical examiner has determined a man who died after he was taken into custody following a rampage at the South Hill Oz Fitness Center suffered from cardiac arrest.
The medical examiner has determined the cause of death was cardiac arrest in the death of Will Berger, 34, which starved his brain from oxygen. Berger's heart may have stopped beating because he was restrained by deputies and suffered some sort of mania.
In June, Berger went on a rampage at the Oz Fitness Center near the intersection of Regal Street and 57th Avenue. Witnesses said Berger was running on a treadmill when he started struggling and then went ballistic inside the gym, screaming at inanimate objects.
"He almost broke the water fountain and he like knocked out the towel dispenser," witness Jesse Soto said.
When managers confronted Berger about his bizarre behavior he threatened to kill them.
"He just started mumbling and saying racist slurs and then he started throwing the weights and he was just cussing and yelling," Soto added.
When Spokane County Sheriff's deputies arrived, gym members saw Berger pounding on the hood of one of the patrol cars. Witnesses said that Berger fought with deputies and when they tasered him, Berger managed to pull out the probes. Berger then collapsed and those same deputies began administering CPR.
The medical examiner's findings that Berger died as a result of cardiac arrest doesn't address the use of force on the part of the deputies, but fortunately a law passed earlier this summer allows the medical examiner to release that information.
"Senator (Mike) Padden and I worked very hard to get the new autopsy bill passed and it frees the medical examiner up to talk about these issues and the reason we did that was to take the mystery out of officer involved incidents," Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.
Up until now, toxicology results that might show if Berger had any drugs in his system have been kept private, but the new law allows for the release of that information if it is relevant to in-custody deaths.
Dr. John Howard, who performed the autopsy on Berger, was out of the office Wednesday and was not able to explain his findings in the case.