Man tased near Oz Fitness served as a Whitman Co. reserve deputy

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by HAYLEY GUENTHNER & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on June 11, 2013 at 3:06 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 11 at 5:41 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Family and friends shared more information Tuesday about the man who died after being tased by deputies from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

William Berger, 34, was a reserve deputy for the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office and worked at a local seed company.

Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said Berger went through the reserve academy for Whitman County in 2005. He then served as a reserve deputy for one year.

Berger’s former boss spoke to KREM 2 News on Tuesday and released a picture of his former employee.  Berger worked for a local seed company at the time of his death.

“We, as his Spokane family, are as devastated by his death as are his parents, brother, grandpa and friends,” said Berger’s former boss.

He said Berger worked for the local seed company for almost two years.  He was also a graduate of Washington State University.

“We were extremely fortunate to have an employee with such personality, intelligence and work ethic,” said his former boss.

Berger was taken off life support and died over the weekend. He became unresponsive after being tased outside of Oz Fitness.

The Medical Examiner listed Berger’s cause of death as “pending further studies” on the autopsy report. The report was released Monday afternoon.

Witnesses said a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputy tased the man on Thursday night outside of Oz Fitness in South Spokane. Investigators said the man became unresponsive as deputies struggled to arrest him.  Deputies and EMS tried providing life saving measures according to deputies at the scene.

A family friend said Berger’s father watched his son get tased by authorities.

Family friend and attorney, Karen Unger, said William Berger had just closed on a house in the area. Berger’s father was in town to help according to Unger. Berger's father had dropped him off at Oz Fitness and when he returned to pick him up he witnessed his son being tased.

“He was unarmed,” said Unger. “He didn't have any kind of weapon on him and yet somehow, the police have to subdue him to the point where he is dead?”

Authorities on the scene also received medical treatment.

Witnesses said the man who was tased became belligerent inside of the gym. He was allegedly lifting weights when he dropped one.  He yelled at the weight, started punching equipment, and punched a hole in the wall according to Oz Fitness members. They said the man even threw a towel dispenser and cursed at other customers.

Authorities were called and eventually tased Berger outside of the gym.

“I can’t imagine how professionals can be that intimidated by somebody in an open field, no hostage, no one threatened, and he ends up dead,” said Unger.

Witnesses told KREM 2 News that Berger was acting completely erratic and aggressive before he was tased. They watch as Berger even pulled the taser prongs out of his chest and then ran from the deputy.

Berger had a similar outburst at ji jitsu business three days before he died.
 

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