FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Anesson Joseph was naked, wide-eyed and covered in blood when three deputies encountered him outside a gated neighborhood near Delray Beach five months ago.
He wound up dead when one deputy fired a Taser and another deputy fired a gun.
A recently released report by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office into the Feb. 4 fatal shooting closed without determining who was first to deploy his weapon.
It noted that many questions remain, but filled out more details of the confrontation, including the fact the Taser never hit Joseph. The college student died from gunshots to the upper leg and chest. After he fell to the ground, deputies saw that what they thought was a weapon in his hand was a set of keys. His clothes were never found.
The 43-page report was released in the wake of Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s determination that the shooting was justified. In a three-page memo released last month, he wrote that it was a reasonable use of force given the information available to deputies at the time.
In the 45 minutes before he was shot, Joseph, 28, had beaten a retired cop and bitten a teenager’s face, apparently choosing victims at random. When the deputies found him, he was speaking incomprehensibly, holding something metallic in his hand, flexing his muscles and moving from side to side. He looked, one of the deputies later said, “like a demon.”
The deputies – one armed with the Taser, one with the gun and one empty-handed – told Joseph they were just there to help and ordered him to get on the ground. Instead, like “a bolt of lightning,” Joseph sprung at Sgt. Richard Raasch, the only deputy armed with a gun. Raasch and the Taser-wielding deputy, Joel Rivera, fired their weapons.
The deputies told investigators they felt their lives were in danger.
“I’m like, this guy’s coming to kill me, bang, bang and that – he was down,” Raasch said, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Joseph’s family has been critical of how the situation was handled. They hired a lawyer who says deputies should have done more to subdue Joseph, noting that the man must have been having some kind of mental breakdown.
“Instead of de-escalating the situation, they chose to use deadly force,” attorney Byrnes Guillaume said.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has suggested Joseph’s behavior may have been triggered by “excited delirium syndrome.” The rare and frequently fatal medical condition impacts the brain, causing hallucinations and leading people on crazed attacks.
A toxicology report showed Joseph had no alcohol or drugs in his system aside from a seizure medication a medical examiner said did not explain his erratic behavior.
Deputy Jesus Pujol, the unarmed deputy at the scene of the fatal exchange, told investigators Joseph looked like a demon, saying there was “no real other way to describe it.”
“I’m like, this guy is either, you know, mentally going through something serious right now or on drugs,” he said, according to the report. “I mean his eyes were as big – I mean, I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Joseph had previously smoked marijuana but stopped months before his death, his sister, 29-year-old Claudia Davids, told investigators. After living in West Palm Beach for years, Joseph had moved into his sister’s place in Boynton Beach and started a new job.
Davids said he seemed depressed and stressed out in the days leading up to his death, believing he was a burden to other members of the family.
The day of the attacks, Joseph told his sister about something that had been bothering him. Davids recounted the conversation to authorities: Joseph and a group of friends drove to Miami, got drunk and beat and robbed a man. It was apparently weighing on Joseph’s conscience, according to the report.
Joseph drove Davids to work at Delray Medical Center the night he was killed, but left her car sitting in the parking lot. No one knows what happened immediately after that. What is known is that Joseph found his first victim about an hour later and was shot 45 minutes after that.
Then he was back at the hospital – this time in the emergency room, where he was pronounced dead.
©2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services