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Coroner: Trauma ‘a factor’ in Darrin Hanna’s death

GloriCarr North Chicago holds death certificate her sDarrHanna. DarrHannwas allegedly beaten by North Chicago police during an arrest died one

Gloria Carr of North Chicago holds the death certificate of her son, Darrin Hanna. Darrin Hanna was allegedly beaten by North Chicago police during an arrest and died one week later. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

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Despite two, four-month-long investigations by the Lake County coroner and the Illinois State Police, exactly what happened the night Darrin “Dagwood” Hanna was arrested is still unknown.

“The investigation will be complete when the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office has reviewed and evaluated the findings to determine if a crime has been committed,” the ISP said in a statement released Wednesday.

The ISP Public Integrity Task Force investigates officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, allegations of felony offenses against on-duty police officers, and public corruption.

“The ISP Public Integrity Task Force does not determine wrongdoing,” the statement read. “Any ISP reports pertaining to the Hanna investigation will not be released until the investigation is complete, and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office has made a final determination.”

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Updated: May 7, 2012 1:28AM

The Lake County coroner has determined that trauma inflicted on Darrin “Dagwood” Hanna during his arrest last year by North Chicago police contributed to his death.

But the autopsy report, as well as findings of another investigation by the Illinois State Police Integrity Unit, are being withheld pending a review by the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office. Results of the State Police probe were turned over to county authorities Wednesday.

In a carefully worded statement released Wednesday, Lake County Coroner Artis Yancey blamed a “combination of complications” for the death including: “Acute and chronic cocaine abuse, physical trauma and restraint, taser restraint, poorly controlled hypertension and chronic renal insufficiency.”

“Each of these factors placed Mr. Hanna in sickle cell crisis causing multi-organ failure.” Yancey stated.

A re-autopsy commissioned by Hanna family attorneys and publicized last month, listed “multiple blunt traumas” first among contributing factors to the death. It tallies injuries including multiple bruises to the arms, hands, back, and eyes, as well as hemorrhages of the abdomen, chest and spleen.

Hanna, 45, was arrested on Nov. 6 after police responded to a call of a domestic disturbance at his apartment in the 700 block of 17th Street. Witnesses claim he was brought out on a stretcher 20 minutes later with a sheet covering his face. Relatives and others claim he was beaten and Tasered by police.

According to Yancey’s statement, Hanna “resisted the officers’ attempts to place him in custody.”

“During the physical altercation with police, Mr. Hanna suffered trauma from physical restraint and Taser restraint,” Yancey stated.

Hanna was transported to Vista Medical Center East. He died a week later.

The death has raised an outcry from Hanna’s family and others. They have descended on City Council meetings with evidence of alleged cases of police brutality. The pressure has resulted in the removal and subsequent “retirement” of former Police Chief Mike Newsome and the placement on “desk duty” of the six officers involved in Hanna’s arrest.

Hanna’s mother, Gloria Carr, and his son, DeLorean McKinney, filed a federal wrongful death suit Dec. 13. Their attorneys argue that a beating inflicted by police led to his death.

“Saying everything’s a factor, is like saying nothing’s a factor,” Attorney Kevin O’Connor said of Yancey’s statement. “I’d love to know where his investigation proved that he (Hanna) actually resisted. He’s got no information to back-up that statement.”

O’Connor said he was certain that officers did not talk to investigators, but invoked Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination.

Yancey, who declined to say whether officers were interviewed as part of the investigation, met with Carr and two other relatives before releasing his statement. Carr said she asked Yancey for a copy of the death certificate and when it arrived, she was dismayed to see that neither “trauma” nor “Taser” were included under cause of death.

“From day one he told me it was trauma,” Carr said. “I said, ‘I need it in writing.’”

Yancey, who had a new version drawn-up, said later that the omission was a “typo error.”

“All the autopsy reports definitely say trauma,” he said.

The death certificate is unclear on other points. Under “Describe how injury occurred,” Yancey states, “the effects of cocaine, as well as trauma at the hands of another during police arrest.” Under manner of death, it states: “Could not be determined.”

“Because there were so many facets involved, it was virtually impossible to pinpoint which action and factor was the cause,” Yancey said.

Hanna’s cousin, Ralph Peterson of Waukegan, accused Yancey of “equivocation” and said while he “told the truth in part, his statement is misleading and deceiving.”

“I’m waiting to see if it will have an effect on (State’s Attorney Mike) Waller’s decision,” Peterson said.

Carr said Yancey told her that her son’s kidneys were like “Jello” and questioned why the hospital would have allowed a transfusion if that was true. She also objects to the coroner’s emphasis on stated “chronic” conditions and drug use.

“Despite everything chronic, despite the sickle cell, we’re talking about what happened that night,” Carr said. “Darrin would still be living if not for the trauma.”

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