Source AP ©

Police officers proved not guilty of teen's death

Two police officers were ruled not quilty of the death of a teenager who died after being shocked with a stun gun.

Chuck Colburn ruled the officers were not found to have caused Roger Holyfield's death Oct. 29, 2006, a day after a run-in with the police in this Jersey County community roughly 50 miles (80 kilometers) from St. Louis.

Holyfield was 17 when officers shocked him at least twice with the stun gun. Officers say the teen turned combative after they approached him while he was carrying a Bible and a cordless telephone and shouting "I want Jesus."

Police have said Holyfield would not acknowledge the officers who tried to calm him, then became combative and was shot with a stun gun - once after ignoring their warnings, then again when he continued struggling. Holyfield died a day later at a St. Louis hospital.

Colburn, appointed in February to review the matter, said Tuesday the officers "acted in a manner that they had been taught was a safe way to use the instrument."

Colburn cited the findings of Dr. Phillip Burch, a St. Louis pathologist who ruled Holyfield may have died as a result of an agitated mental state called "excited delirium" that some say can send the heart racing until it quits. Burch said the teen had no drugs in his system and died of "natural causes."

In his letter to the judge, Colburn wrote that Burch said Holyfield was more susceptible to "excited delirium" because of his well-documented history of mental illness.

Mark Niemeyer, an attorney for the Holyfield family, said in a statement that his clients were disappointed the officers would not be charged, insisting the idea that Holyfield would have died even without police present is illogical.

Holyfield's mother is suing the officers and several police agencies.

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