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Death in Police Raid a Homicide

New York medical examiners rule that a botched bust caused a woman's heart attack.

May 28, 2003|From Reuters

NEW YORK — The death of Alberta Spruill, who had a fatal heart attack after police kicked down the wrong apartment door during a botched drug raid, was ruled a homicide Tuesday by medical examiners.

"The actions of the police caused her to have a heart attack and die. We are not ruling on whether the action was justifiable or not," said Ellen Borakove, chief spokeswoman for the medical examiner. "A grand jury would have to decide that."

The city's medical examiner's office said it found that the death of Spruill, 57, was homicide rather than natural, accidental or suicide.

"The cause of death was sudden death, following a police raid that included a flash grenade detonation and handcuffing, due to hypertensive heart disease," Borakove said.

The police announced Tuesday that the department will now keep track of search warrants with a centralized database. It will allow investigators to spot patterns of problem searches and quickly determine the names of officers involved in such raids.

A bungled tip about a dealer's cache of drugs and weapons 11 days ago led police to kick down the door and toss a stun grenade into Spruill's apartment. The woman had a heart condition and died within an hour on her way to a hospital.

"This is a tragedy. This should not have happened," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at the time.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg apologized for Spruill's death to mourners at her funeral Saturday.

Police were led to the apartment by an informant, officials said.

The drug dealer they sought lived in the same building but had been arrested by a different police unit four days earlier. Lawyers representing Spruill's family have said they planned to file a $500-million lawsuit against the city.

Spruill had been a city employee.

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