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Suffolk DA clears Chelsea police in 2014 Taser death

Chelsea police acted lawfully when they tased a man last year who was acting violently and who later died at an area hospital, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley's office said on Monday.

In a final report on the investigation, Conley said officers "acted reasonably and lawfully" during their encounter with Dominic Graffeo, 56, inside his apartment at a rooming house on Hawthorne Street on June 26, 2014. Suffolk prosecutors investigate all police-involved deaths of suspects in the county.

Working telephone numbers for Graffeo's family could not be located.

According to Conley's report, the manager of Graffeo's rooming house called 911 to report that he was smashing things in his room and "going crazy." The manager said police had previously removed Graffeo at gunpoint.

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Graffeo refused to let officers into his room when they arrived and blocked his door with furniture, the report said. Police called Chelsea firefighters, who provided a ladder that an officer climbed to observe Graffeo through a window. The officer saw that Graffeo was shirtless, sweating, and bleeding, according to the report.

As police began to breach Graffeo's door to enter his room, he allegedly threw objects at them including bottles, a fan, and a dresser drawer, and refused orders to put his hands up.

Officer David Delaney fired a Taser at Graffeo, but he blocked one of the prongs. A second officer, Anthony Ortiz, fired his Taser and made contact with Graffeo, the report said.

However, Graffeo, who had prior convictions for assaulting officers, continued throwing objects and kicking at police and resisted their efforts to handcuff him, according to prosecutors and court records.

Delaney then tased Graffeo in "drive stun" mode, meaning he used a Taser directly against the suspect's body instead of from a distance, so police could control him, the report said.

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Graffeo was then placed in handcuffs, but police removed them after noticing signs of distress, and Officer Luis Tarraza gave chest compressions, according to the report. Waiting paramedics quickly entered the room and performed CPR and administered Narcan, which is used to reverse drug overdoses, to Graffeo, prosecutors said.

He was taken to Whidden Memorial Hospital in Everett, where he was pronounced dead.

The medical examiner ruled the cause of death was " 'sudden death in a person with acute cocaine, ethanol, and oxycodone intoxication following an altercation with police involving the use of electronic control devices and physical restraints' and the manner of death to be homicide," the report said.

The medical examiner noted that Graffeo's heart disease and obesity contributed to his death, and that "extended physical exertion" also probably played a role, according to the report.

"Based on a thorough review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the police response and Mr. Graffeo's death, I conclude that there is no evidence that would warrant criminal charges against the involved officers, who acted reasonably and lawfully, with due regard for both public safety and Mr. Graffeo's well-being," Conley said.

A Chelsea police spokesman could not be reached for comment.


Laura Crimaldi of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.