Witness in Strickland officer-involved civil case had medical issue, meth, coroner’s report states
The coroner’s report for John Anderson, a witness in a civil case against the Grass Valley Police Department and Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, determined that the 53 year old died of a medical emergency stemming from methamphetamine use.
The report’s findings appear to contradict arguments made by an attorney representing the estate of Gabriel Strickland, who Anderson saw moments before Strickland died in an officer-involved shooting.
Strickland, 25, was shot Jan. 1, 2020, after he pointed what was believed to be a gun at officers. He was hit multiple times and died after he was taken to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. Deputies Brandon Tripp and Taylor King, and Grass Valley Police Officer Brian Hooper, were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting, but later returned to duty.
According to the police department and Sheriff’s Office statements, when authorities on scene recovered the toy rifle, the orange tip was broken off.
Court documents submitted by attorney Patrick Dwyer state that Anderson saw Strickland a half hour before this death marching back and forth with the weapon slung on his shoulder, tip intact.
Due to the nature of Anderson’s testimony — recorded just two months before his death — Dwyer said he requested a stay on Anderson’s cremation with the idea that the state’s attorney general would take over the investigation.
Dwyer’s request was rejected once, and then again after he appealed.
Toxicologists then determined Anderson’s cause of death was an acute pontine hemorrhage due to a hypertensive emergency.
“Decedent suffered a medical emergency as a result of methamphetamine intoxication,” the coroner’s report said.
When contacted, Dwyer declined to comment.
Deputy Daniel Morales authored a portion of the report as the responding officer on scene. Officer Conrad Ball also responded to the call regarding Anderson’s death. Ball was on the scene of Strickland’s death, although he was not one of the three officers who discharged their weapon on Jan. 1, 2020.
The report indicates that Morales and the agency he represents made an earnest effort to locate Anderson’s next of kin — contrary to the court documents submitted by Dwyer in August — via the police records management system and the jail visitation log when the subject was in custody.
The suit states that the responding officers failed to identify themselves with a business card to the reporting party, collect interviews and secure the scene — all standard protocol in legal authorities’ dealings with a dead body.
According to the coroner’s report, Morales discovered Anderson at 9:54 a.m. July 29 sitting in the driver’s seat of his brown Mercury Mountaineer with his shirt around both of his elbows “as if he was attempting to take it off.”
Morales observed some rigor mortis on the victim and determined the time of death to be between 7:30 p.m. the day before or 9:30 a.m. that day.
The document also indicates Morales saw blood on the victim’s right nostril area, and a white dried liquid substance in his left nostril.
According to the coroner’s report, the reporting party — who isn’t named — knew Anderson for two months before his death. That person said they never saw him use any drugs.
In a later report, taken by Morales on Aug. 11 while towing Anderson’s motorhome from the place of death, the officer observed the coroner seals he had placed on the door leading into the home were torn in half, as if someone had opened the door.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com
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