Autopsy Shows Drug Use; Inconclusive on Manner of Death in Woodland Tasering

The family is still seeking answers

On February 8, Michael Barrera, 30, died following a report of a disturbance in Woodland.  Reports had Mr. Barrera carrying a large knife, a golf club and a pair of scissors when he was hit with a Taser twice, and later stopped breathing and died.

The sheriff’s department is currently investigating the incident, with members of the family telling the Vanguard in mid-February, “We have been told lie after lie, they have lied to our community, and they are covering something up. At this point we have been told numerous different versions of the story and lies from WPD and Yolo County Sheriff’s Dept.”

According to the coroner’s report by Investigator Sheik Ali, Mr. Barrera “was reported to have been tased and restrained with handcuffs following the altercation. Several minutes after being restrained, the decedent became unresponsive. Resuscitative efforts were initiated by law enforcement personnel while emergency medical services were en route to the location.”

Mr. Barrera was transported to the Woodland Memorial Hospital via ambulance where he was pronounced dead at 13:41 hours.

The coroner reports, “The cause of death was sudden death with methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement. Manner of death was classified as UNDETERMINED.”

AMR (American Medical Response) had advised the Emergency Room Physician that “the decedent was acting psychotic/erratic in front of a house in Woodland, CA where police had been called to intervene. The decedent was reported to have been swinging a golf club at some point and had a physical altercation with Woodland Police Department. During the altercation, the decedent was tased.

“Shortly after, the decedent became unresponsive. The decedent was transported to the hospital with CPR in progress. CPR had occurred out in the field for approximately 30 minutes prior to the decedent’s arrival to the emergency department. The decedent had no signs of life upon arrival and was in asystole. I was advised that the decedent had no obvious significant external trauma, but did have several contusions and abrasions on various aspects of his body.”

Medical records show that Mr. Barrera had been to the hospital three times in the previous two months.  In November of 2016, he had “moderate shortness of breath” and claimed “he was exposed to chemicals at work and was referred and cleared by a workman’s compensation provider.”  Chest X-rays were normal and he was released and encouraged to follow up with worker’s comp.

On December 10, he was admitted to the ER for “hallucinogen intoxication.”  At that time he tested positive for both amphetamines and cocaine.  According to the report, “The decedent was advised to stop using methamphetamine, cocaine, and other illicit drugs, prior to being discharged in stable condition.”

Finally, on January 10, he was brought in by police and a case worker on a 5150 hold (referring to Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150) for psychiatric evaluation.  “The decedent presented under the influence of methamphetamine. The decedent was noted to have not slept in a week. According to records, police were called after his mother found him acting bizarre and delusional while cleaning the house.”

He would be discharged “against medical advice” on January 17.

The coroner concludes, Forensic Pathologist Brian M. Nagao, MD “determined the cause of death to be sudden death with methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement.”

According to Dr. Nagao “there is a possibility that the decedent could have died with the quantitated level of methamphetamine in his blood without getting into an altercation with law enforcement.”

However, Dr. Nagao stated that he “cannot determine if the physical contact pathologically caused or contributed to the death, but we cannot exclude the restraint which was the actions of another. No obvious fatal injuries were observed during the postmortem examination.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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