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Death and questions after man is tased by Fall River police

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A neighbor, April Alves, photographed Scott Macomber under arrest Monday after being tased.
A neighbor, April Alves, photographed Scott Macomber under arrest Monday after being tased.April Alves

FALL RIVER — In a neighbor's photograph time-stamped 12:24 p.m. Monday, a handcuffed Scott Macomber, who had just been tased during a struggle with Fall River police officers, is standing upright as he is led to a cruiser.

Less than an hour later, Macomber was pronounced dead.

The Bristol district attorney's office, which is investigating Macomber's death, said the 48-year-old "went into medical distress inside the police cruiser." He was rushed to St. Anne's Hospital in Fall River, where he died at 1:20 p.m.

Authorities said Macomber was tased when he interfered with the arrest of Lisa McNally, a 37-year-old Dartmouth woman whom relatives identified as his cousin. McNally, who was living in the Fall River residence with Macomber and his girlfriend, was wanted on arrest warrants.

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Macomber's sudden death sent shockwaves through his family, and some relatives questioned the official narrative, saying they believe he was the victim of police brutality.

"We want to get to the bottom of this because this is a wrongful death," said his brother, Jeff Macomber. "He shouldn't have died in this incident."

Jeff Macomber called his brother's death "senseless," and wondered if he received proper medical attention in the cruiser.

According to the district attorney's office, McNally hurried inside Scott Macomber's home when she saw the police, who followed her. When they tried to arrest her, Macomber "interfered with them," and a struggle ensued. Police then used a taser to subdue Macomber, authorities said.

"After the tasing, Mr. Macomber was placed under arrest for assault and battery of a police officer, resisting arrest, and interfering with a police officer," the district attorney's office said in a statement. "Mr. Macomber was then walked to a police cruiser."

As police led him in handcuffs, a neighbor, April Alves, snapped a picture. Alves did not know Macomber had been tased, but heard McNally wailing in agony and wanted to document the incident.

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Macomber "was fine," Alves said. "He was just walking back and forth."

In accordance with department policy on tasing incidents, Fall River police officers called a medical team for Macomber, prosecutors said. He went into "medical distress" before the emergency teams could arrive, prosecutors said.

An autopsy will be conducted Wednesday to determine how Macomber died.

"Massachusetts State Police detectives and prosecutors from this office are currently interviewing witnesses and those involved in the incident," prosecutors said. "This office will conduct a thorough investigation into all the facts and circumstances of this incident, which will include information from the medical examiner's autopsy results."

But Jeff Macomber said relatives who were present during the struggle told him police officers were unduly aggressive — both verbally and physically — when they arrested McNally, which created heightened tensions. Scott Macomber interfered out of necessity after pleading with officers to stop "roughing up" his cousin, his brother said.

"They were beating on [McNally] while they were arresting," Jeff Macomber said. "They threw her down on the floor, and were stomping on her."

The district attorney's office and the Fall River police did not respond to questions about the exact time medical teams were called for Macomber.

A police call log for the home where the incident occurred showed frequent visits since 2013, including reports of suspicious activity and loud disturbances. Alves said she has spoken to other neighbors about strange activity at the house and has found gun casings and syringes on the property.

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In Bangor, where Scott Macomber previously lived, he was sentenced in 2012 to three years in prison for aggravated assault and robbery, officials there said. He had several other felony convictions before that prison sentence, prosecutors said.

In 2014, according to figures provided by the Massachusetts State Police, police officers used tasers 1,035 times over 978 incidents. In Fall River, there were 29 tasing incidents in 2014, down from 37 the year before.

Verbal warnings were issued before tasers were deployed in about 84 percent of incidents, the State Police said.

McNally was arraigned Tuesday in New Bedford District Court and was released on personal recognizance. She is due in Fall River District Court Wednesday for a probation warrant related to a past shoplifting offense.


Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH