• Man who died after police takedown in Publix had ‘no gross trauma' to neck, police say

    By: Monique Valdes

    Updated:

    WEST MELBOURNE, Fla. - A Brevard County man who died shortly after police took him into custody in a Publix store had “no gross trauma” to his neck, according to police. 

    Police identified the man in Monday’s incident as Donald Whitmer Jr., 45, of Palm Bay. The officers involved were Jacob Mathis and Kevin Krukoski.

    Officers were called to the Publix on West New Haven Avenue at about 10:40 a.m. for a report of a man acting “erratically,” police said. 

    Man dies after confrontation with West Melbourne police
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.
    Man dies after confrontation with West Melbourne police
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

    Police said Whitmer was being uncooperative and a physical altercation ensued. Cellphone video from a witness showed Whitmer’s struggle with police before an officer deployed a Taser on him and took him to the ground.  

    An officer can be seen on top of the man as the officer tells him to relax. The officer’s arm appears to be wrapped around Whitmer’s neck while they’re both on the ground. 

    Read: Man dies during altercation with West Melbourne officers at Publix, police say

    A customer was heard in the background saying, “Don’t choke him.” 

    Whitmer lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital, where he died.

    Police said an autopsy was completed Tuesday and the preliminary results show Whitmer had “no gross trauma” to his neck. The final results from the report are pending. 

    WATCH: West Melbourne officers' takedown of man before he died

    In a 911 call, a manager of the Publix described Whitmer as incoherent. 

    “He’s been in the store for about 35-40 minutes. He’s questioning things, but he can’t seem to come up with a coherent question,” said the manager. 

    The first time police responded, Whitmer had left the store, but managers said he came back. 

    “Two officers were out here to deal with this gentlemen, who is obviously very confused. He needs to be removed,” said the manager in a 911 call.

    Man dies after confrontation with West Melbourne police
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.
    Man dies after confrontation with West Melbourne police
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

    Police body camera video of the incident has not been released, but the radio traffic was.  

    The officer told the dispatcher that there was an unconscious male and that CPR was in progress. 

    Records show Whitmer has no criminal history in Brevard County. His Florida arrest records included some arrests in South Florida, the most recent of which was in 2011. 

    “The men and women of the West Melbourne Police Department would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Whitmer,” West Melbourne Police Chief Richard Wiley said in a press release Tuesday. “We know this is a difficult time for them as they cope with his passing.” 

    Mathis has been with the department since 2016 and Krukoski has been with the department since 2017. Neither has a disciplinary record. 

    The officers were placed on administrative leave as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues its investigation.

    Whitmer's daughter and her stepmother told Channel 9 Tuesday that didn't want to comment on his death because they're still mourning their loss.

    A final autopsy report is pending.

    Next Up: