Lancaster officers not liable for man’s death
“The result of the grand jury is what we expected,” remarked Lancaster Chief of Police Gerald J. Gill, Jr. “The officers responded precisely as we and the public expect them to do. They exercised sound judgment and restraint and I might add particularly uncommon restraint.”
The incident occurred in August when Lancaster Officers Brian T. Firestone and Michael J. Gozdalski responded to a violent disturbance call in the morning, which resulted in the death of Nicholas Koscielniak.
According to the police officials, the officers were confronted by Koscielniak, a six-foot four-inch, 275-pound male, who was out of control and assaulting another adult occupant of the home.
It was previously stated, the eventual use by the officers of an electronic control device did not control Koscielniak’s aggression. While the officers were in the process of restraining Koscielniak for purposes of ambulance transport to the hospital for a mental health evaluation, he continued to fight with them.
“These officers couldn’t have acted more appropriately given the extremely hostile circumstances they were confronted with,” remarked Gill. “It was a rapidly unfolding situation and they were dealing with large, extraordinary violent man.”
When Koscielniak was placed in the ambulance, he became unresponsive and was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Cheektowaga by the Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corps (LVAC). It wasn’t long until Koscielniak went into cardiac arrest and died at 6:52 a.m.
There were three separate investigative agencies; the internal investigation by the Lancaster Police Department, the Erie County Pathology and Toxicology Medical Examiner’s Office, as well as the 23-person grand jury, who all determined the use of force by the officers did not the cause Koscielniak’s death.
“[The agencies] arrived at the independent, unbiased conclusion that Mr. Koscielniak’s cause of death was not attributable to the police officers actions and not caused by the electronic control devices, but by drug poisoning and heart disease,” remarked Gill.
Koscielniak was tasered a few times, but investigators were unable to determine the exact number of times he was actually affected the device.
“So, we can’t determine the number of times the device actually made contact with his body, but I can tell you that the duration of the electronic energy was less than the instrument’s maximum five cycles- five second cycles,” commented Gill.
Gill continued to explain, that if he were to press the trigger once on the device and it touches a person’s body, the longest duration that a person can sustain electronic energy into their body is five seconds.
“We were able to determine that they did not use the full cycle of five seconds every time they made contact. My point is that they used restraint,” said Gill.
When it comes to police officers using tasers, Gill said the devices are safe and actually save lives, because they are designed to minimize the use of police force. The devices protect the lives of both civilians and police officers and makes dangerous situations safer than if officers had to use physical force, batons, or their handguns.
“Our compassion for the Koscielniak family continues,” said Gill. “It’s been trying for our officers and I can’t imagine the burden this has placed on this man’s loved ones.”