Blaine man dies at rehab facility after police deploy Taser

by Seth Rowe
ECM Sun Newspapers

A 76-year-old man died about two weeks after St. Louis Park Police deployed a Taser on him as he held a knife to his throat at the Park Health and Rehabilitation Center in St. Louis Park.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office announced Aug. 21 that Zheng Diao, of Blaine, died July 29 at Hennepin County Medical Center after pneumonia complicated medical treatment of delirium and blunt force injuries he sustained when he fell while incapacitated from a conductive energy device, a term for a Taser.

Diao received injuries to his face when he was shocked by the device July 14 at Park Health and Rehab, the medical examiner’s office reported.

St. Louis Park Police responded to a request for assistance from the staff at Park Health and Rehabilitation Center the evening of July 14, according to a statement that St. Louis Park city staff released. The Park Health and Rehabilitation Center staff members reported that Diao possessed a knife and scissors and had not been cooperating with them.

St. Louis Park Police described Diao’s behavior as erratic after officers arrived at Park Health and Rehab. The facility’s staff members informed police that Diao did not speak English, and officers tried to use gestures to convince him to put down the knife and scissors, according to the city’s statement.

“When Diao moved the knife into contact with his throat, officers deployed the Taser to prevent Diao from inflicting serious harm or death onto himself,” the statement continues. “Officers restrained Diao until Hennepin County paramedics were able to transport him to Hennepin County Medical Center to be treated and placed on a crisis hold.”

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office Aug. 5 informed St. Louis Park Police of Diao’s death on July 29, according to the statement.

St. Louis Park Police are seeking an outside agency to “conduct a thorough investigation” into the death, the statement adds.

A police department employee said police could not release any further information “due to an ongoing investigation” and privacy laws.

Park Health and Rehabilitation Center Administrator Kristie Johnsrud also cited privacy laws in a statement she released.

“This is an unfortunate situation and on behalf of the staff at Park Health and Rehabilitation Center, we extend our condolences to the family and friends of Zheng Diao,” Johnsrud said.

Although the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office identified Diao as a Blaine resident, Johnsrud referred to him as a resident at Park Health and Rehabilitation Center.

“Our staff responded quickly and appropriately at the time of the incident by immediately contacting the local authorities for assistance,” Johnsrud said. “ We also reported the incident to the Minnesota Department of Health, as required by law.”

Privacy laws prevent the release of details about Diao’s medical history or the care he was receiving at the center, Johnsrud said.

A Minnesota Department of Health staff member could not be immediately reached for comment.

According to the center’s website, extendicareus.com/park, Park Health and Rehabilitation Center provides long-term nursing care as well as short-term rehabilitation care for patients in a 93-bed facility. The center has operated since 1965 and is certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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