A Correction And More Troubling Questions About Woman’s Taser Death in Fairfax Jail

2-11-2015  I need to correct an error that I made in writing Tuesday about Natasha McKenna, the 37 year old African American woman who suffered cardiac arrest after her encounter with law enforcement in the Fairfax County jail. I am happy to do this because my goal is to uncover the truth and also because this information confirms what those of us in the mental health community fear.

This is an instance where someone with a mental illness is acting oddly. The police are called and an altercation happens, resulting in charges being filed and the person with mental illness ending up becoming entrapped in the criminal justice system.

I was initially told by my sources and wrote that McKenna had been charged with simple assault. That was incorrect. Please read the official statement printed below from the Alexandria police.  A spokesperson told me that three of the six officers involved in the initial contact with McKenna were CIT trained and that one of them was a CIT instructor.

More troubling questions surfaced today. The latest being unconfirmed reports that after Alexandria police took McKenna to the hospital, she was released after six days on her own. I hope reporters will ask the hospital if it had a discharge plan for her? Was someone helping her connect with community services? Was there coordination between the hospital, community mental health services and the police?

At some point, she was picked up by the Fairfax Police who took her to jail where she was put in an isolation cell. Five days later, she was tasered at least four times and went into cardiac arrest. The jail has mental health staff on duty. What role did those mental health experts play? Also, why was it necessary, in such a controlled environment, for a forced cell extraction? Why wasn’t she left alone in her cell until she calmed down? Simply put, wasn’t there a better way to have handled this than confronting her with five intimating officers and ending up using a taser on her?

These are the questions that hospital officials and Sheriff Stacey Kincaid need to answer. Here is the statement from the Alexandria PD.


Thank you for contacting my office Mr. Earley, here is the summary I mentioned to you.

 On January 15, 2015, at 4:18 p.m., officers were dispatched to Hertz Rental Car, 501 S. Pickett Street, for reports of a customer being disruptive and acting strangely. The first officer to arrive on the scene encountered Ms. McKenna, of no fixed address. After speaking with the officer for a few minutes, McKenna ran from this location in the direction of the BMW dealership, located at 499 S. Pickett Street. Based on the encounter and interviews from staff at Hertz, the officer believed McKenna may have mental health issues.

 Another officer arrived and observed McKenna walking towards the Home Depot on Pickett Street. The officer lost sight of the subject and, after a 30 minute search, the officers found McKenna at the Home Depot. They attempted to take her into custody for an involuntary Temporary Detention Order (TDO), however, McKenna ran from the officers again.

 Additional officers respond to the area and were able to catch Ms. McKenna, who continued to resist their attempts to take her into custody. She punched one of the officers in the face. Another officer deployed OC Spray and the three ended up fighting on the ground. Other officers arrived and placed McKenna in custody. A hobble restraint device was applied due to her continuing to struggle. While waiting for EMS personnel to respond to perform a wash down of the OC, McKenna attempted to bite the officers and a spit sock (device to prevent spitting and biting) was applied to prevent her from continuing this behavior. EMS arrived and transported McKenna to INOVA Alexandria Hospital. While at the hospital, a Medical Detention Order was obtained and executed. On January 16, the officers transferred custody of McKenna to the medical and security staff at Inova Alexandria Hospital.

 On January 17, an officer returned to the hospital and served a TDO for McKenna. She was transported to INOVA Mt. Vernon Hospital and released to the custody of medical personnel there.   A felony warrant was obtained for McKenna on January 20 by Alexandria Police officers for the January 15th incident and on January 26 it was served upon her by Fairfax County Police officers.

Crystal L. Nosal

Commander/Senior Public Safety Information Officer

Alexandria Police Department


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.