What Happened? How Did a Diabetic Man With a Hypoglycemic Episode End Police Officer’s Life?

Filed under: Health — @ October 3, 2006

Police are still baffling over what happened Sept. 12 when a police officer who was coming to the aid of a man with diabetes ended up being killed by the man, who was known for violent behavior when his blood sugar fell dangerously low.

Brier, Washington (state) police officer Eddie Thomas died on Sept. 12 after a skirmish with Gary Starks, a gun-owning man with diabetes, The Herald reported yesterday.

In fact, three years ago, Starks, the man with diabetes, had “fought with medical personnel trying to give him an insulin shot and a police officer had to restrain him,” according to police reports obtained by Herald reporters Diana Hefley and Jackson Holtz.

Evidently, Starks’ wife had made the exact same type of call “a number of times previously,” according to The Herald. And on Sept. 12, she again called 911 to report that her husband, a diabetic, needed medical treatment.

Now police are trying to figure out what happened. The Herald says simply: “Thomas, 28, died after a struggle with Starks. The cause of the officer’s death remains a mystery. Detectives continue to investigate the incident… Investigators are waiting for a final report from the medical examiner, Everett police Sgt. Boyd Bryant said. That report may not be ready for another month.”

Thankfully, reporters Hefley and Holtz did their homework.

They contacted Dr. Richard Hellman, president-elect of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, who reportedly told them that “Extreme low blood sugar levels can be difficult to manage and are often very dangerous.”

Dr. Helman told the reporters that “when blood sugar levels drop too low, a condition known as hypoglycemia [sets in, and], judgment can be impaired and patients can become timid, frightened or combative. Patients might not remember the episode.”

The Herald points out that “Gary Starks’ blood sugar level was recorded at 33 and 20 during two incidents, according to the police reports.” (Yikes, that’s low and quite dangerous!)

In fact, Dr. Hellman noted, “At those levels, many patients have seizures or lose consciousness.”

Dr. Hellman further observed that managing low blood sugar levels “requires a tricky balance of medicine, diet and exercise” and that “any change can upset the equation and cause a hypoglycemic episode.

“Judgment gets screwed up right away,” the specialist said. “It’s not unusual for people to get violent, especially when someone’s trying to get them to do something.”

Read more about this sad event and my thoughts about people not taking proper care of their diabetes.

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