BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A man who died after police used a stun gun on him at a hospital had a history of mental problems and was known to area law officers, his mother said Tuesday.
Dorothy Nelson said her family has hired a lawyer and is looking for answers about the death of son Randy Joe Nelson, 49.
"It's terrible," Nelson said in a telephone interview from Athens, about 95 miles north of Birmingham.
Court records show Nelson had at least three dozen arrests or traffic infractions since 1993, with many coming in a cluster from 2002 through 2005. Records show officers noted at least twice, in 2009 and 2010, that Nelson had mental problems or was on medication.
"They knew Randy," his mother said.
On Monday, Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said at a news conference that staff at Athens-Limestone Hospital told authorities a man resisted while they tried evaluating him Feb. 3. The man threw his gown and glass vials at officers who talked to him from his room's doorway, Johnson said.
Johnson did not identify the patient, but he said officers told the patient's mother and staff that they'd need to use a stun gun to stop him from harming himself and others.
Johnson says the man had trouble breathing after the stun gun was used and died days later, Feb. 8 at another hospital.
The Alabama Bureau of Investigation is investigating, and Johnson said body camera video of the confrontation would be made public after members of the patient's family view it.
Nelson was black and the officers are white, but there is no indication whether race was a factor.
Dorothy Nelson said she had taken her son to the hospital because he was getting sick. She said he wasn't violent initially but became agitated after officers arrived.
Court records show Randy Nelson was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in 2010 after getting into a dispute about car keys with his brother, who told officers the man was "off of his medication." The charge was later dismissed.
In 2009, Nelson was arrested on a charge of obstructing government operations after someone called 911 and hung up. The arresting deputy wrote in a report that the man had several past encounters with police.
"Nelson suffers from mental illness and has on several occasions been involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation," said the report. "Nelson is also prone to resisting arrest and has assaulted deputies and correctional officers in the past."
The 2009 case was dismissed at the request of the sheriff's office, records show.