By Rebecca Woolington, The Oregonian
June 05, 2010, 4:00AM
View full sizeCourtesy of KGW
Daniel Joseph Barga
CORNELIUS -- On the April evening before he died, Daniel Joseph Barga was eager to try mushrooms while watching the Disney classic "Alice in Wonderland."
But soon after taking the hallucinogenic drugs, the 24-year-old man became "weird and silent" his brother and roommate, Elijah Barga, told police.
Daniel Barga became combative and destructive; he tore down curtains, pulled out bathroom drawers, took off his clothes, urinated on the floor, and scuffled with his brother and a neighbor at their Davis Court duplex in Cornelius, according to investigative reports released by the Washington County district attorney's office.
Elijah Barga frantically called his parents at about 2:35 a.m. to tell them about his brother's violent behavior, according to police. Daniel Barga, wearing only a T-shirt and one sock, ran from his residence at about 2:45 a.m.
About 10 minutes later, Barga found his way into the backyard of a home in the 3000 block of North Irvine Street –less than a half mile away from his residence, police said. He shattered the glass top to a patio table, overturned chairs, and uprooted plants.
Read previous stories about the Daniel Barga case.By the time police arrived, he was covered in blood and combative, charging officers and shrugging off pepper spray, Tasers and control holds, the reports show. Finally, officers wrestling with him on the ground handcuffed him.
Barga fell silent, then stopped breathing. Paramedics couldn't revive him at the scene or in the ambulance. Nineteen minutes after arriving in the emergency room of Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro, Barga was pronounced dead.
The three officers involved in the April 10 in-custody death will not face criminal charges, the district attorney's office announced Tuesday.
Cornelius Officer Mark Jansen and Forest Grove Sgt. Dean Foster and Officer Scott King, were placed on standard administrative leave, but were cleared to return to duty by mid-April.
The Washington County Inter-Agency Major Crimes Team investigated the incident and Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Bletko reviewed the investigation. The major crimes team was called out because authorities knew few details about the incident, including whether deadly force had been used, said Bletko, who responded to the scene of the incident and attended Barga's autopsy. Once authorities learned more details, the investigation turned more into a death investigation, Bletko said.
View full sizeCourtesy of KGW
Daniel Joseph Barga
"Mr. Barga displayed unusual strength, endurance and resistance to pain while resisting arrest," Bletko wrote in a June 1 letter addressed to both departments' chiefs. "Officers Jansen and King, and Sgt. Foster all used appropriate and reasonable force in taking Mr. Barga into custody; their action did not cause the death of Mr. Barga."
Officers used a Taser on Barga seven times and pepper spray once during their attempts to take him into custody, according to reports from the investigation.
State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson determined last month that Barga died from "excited delirium" due to the toxic effects of hallucinogenic mushrooms. The autopsy showed that prior to his death, Barga had consumed a large amount of mushrooms. Gunson's autopsy found no traumatic injuries that could have caused Barga's death, and no evidence that he suffered injuries from any specialized police holds.
When homeowner Patricia Zumwalt called 9-1-1 at 2:56 a.m., she initially thought two males were fighting in her backyard, banging on the windows and trying to get into the home, according to the call tape. Police later determined that Barga had been the only suspect in the Zumwalt's yard.
Jansen, the first officer to respond, found Barga partially clothed and covered in blood from running down a slope with bramble and berry vines, according to reports. After initially complying with Jansen's commands, Barga twice charged Jansen and also grabbed and pushed homeowner David Zumwalt, according to reports. Jansen then tased Barga once, reports say, but the Taser had no effect.
Jansen chased Barga down North Irvine Street toward North 31st Avenue, where Jansen was met by the two back-up Forest Grove officers, reports say. The three officers struggled with Barga, and Foster tried using pepper spray, but it too was ineffective, reports say.
Foster then tased Barga, who fell to the ground, but continued to fight Jansen and King as they attempted to handcuff him, reports say. Foster tased him an additional five times, and Jansen and King took him into custody and called for medical units to respond, according to reports.
Barga stopped breathing a few moments after being taken into custody. None of the officers attempted CPR and medics were unable to revive him, according to reports. At 4 a.m., Barga was pronounced dead at Tuality Community Hospital.
Police interviews with family members and friends describe Barga as fun-loving, and noted his frequent use of alcohol and marijuana, according to reports.
Neither his wife, Amber, from whom he was separated, nor his family members said they were aware of Barga using drugs besides marijuana, the reports say.
Barga wished to be independent and his parents, who live in Forest Grove, only saw him a few times a year, his mother told detectives.
Kathleen Barga told detectives her son likely tried the mushrooms because he thought it would be exciting.
"He paid the ultimate price for his fun," his mother told detectives. "Some things aren't worth it."
-- Rebecca Woolington
© 2010 OregonLive.com. All rights reserved.