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Originally published Monday, July 2, 2012 at 8:34 PM

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Mentally ill Tukwila man dies after dispute, calling 911

A 25-year-old mentally ill Tukwila man died over the weekend after he called police to his house.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Victor Duffy's mother returned to her Tukwila home on Saturday just as the police were arriving.

Her son, 25-year-old Victor Duffy Jr., called 911 during a fight with his younger sister despite his "deathly" fear of police, Deanne Mills said.

According to Mills, her son had been diagnosed as being bipolar and having post-traumatic stress disorder after a confrontation with police in which he was tased six years ago, she said.

Mills said she told the officers who came to her house on Saturday that her son was mentally ill and had not been taking his medications.

"I begged them not to use a Taser on him," Mills said Monday. "I told them he was afraid and I asked them to take care of him."

She said she and other family members were herded outside their home in the 5600 block of South 150th Place, leaving her son alone in the house with police.

"As soon as we were out, I heard 'zzzt,' 'zzzt,' and knew they were tasering him," Mills said.

A short while later, she said, her son was dead.

According to a news release issued Monday by the Tukwila Police Department, after Duffy was taken into custody, he began to experience "breathing difficulties" while he was in an ambulance and died later at Harborview Medical Center. The King County Medical Examiner's Office did not release the cause of Duffy's death on Monday.

The Tukwila police statement said officers were called to the home, where a "male with a history of mental illness was being combative with his family and making strange statements to the 911 operator" late Saturday morning.

Duffy was "holding a golf club and threatening his family" when officers arrived, according to police. Duffy's relatives said they could hear a Taser being used and him screaming inside the home while they were outside.

As officers tried to take him into custody for an involuntary mental-health commitment, Duffy attempted to escape and broke his ankle, police said in the statement.

"He was so afraid that he jumped out of a second-story window to get away," said his cousin, Kevin Duffy.

Duffy's mother said that while her son was on the ground and unable to move, officers attacked him, used the Taser on him again and handcuffed him.

Medics were summoned to treat the ankle injury and transport Duffy to the hospital, police said.

Tukwila police did not respond to telephone calls for additional information on the incident. Their only comment was the brief description of the incident in the news release, which indicated that detectives from the newly created Valley Investigative Team would conduct an independent investigation into the incident.

"The Tukwila Police Department cannot release any further information at this time due to the ongoing investigation," the statement read.

The Valley Investigative Team investigates "serious incidents" involving police and includes detectives from the Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Port of Seattle, Renton and Tukwila police departments, according to an email sent Tuesday by Tukwila police Cmdr. Dennis McOmber.

According to his family, Victor Duffy's mental illness did not emerge until police used a Taser on him six years ago.

"He'd never even gotten into a fight before," said his uncle, Willie Mills.

According to court records and family accounts, Duffy was walking home from a school dance on March 16, 2006, when a resident of East Macadam Road reported that someone was kicking over trash cans.

Court records say that when Duffy was confronted by police, he refused to provide identification and cursed at the officer. He was getting into the driver's seat of the running patrol car, court records indicate, when he was tased by Sgt. Doug Johnson, of the Tukwila Police Department.

Court documents say the Taser "did not have much effect" and that Duffy pulled the probes from his chest, jumped into the car and then punched the officer several times in the face.

He then clawed the officer's face and attempted to force his thumb into the officer's eye socket, court documents say.

Duffy was charged with malicious mischief and third-degree assault, but pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault. His family said, though, that going to jail changed him.

"He was never the same. The police don't know how to deal with mental illness," said his cousin. "They overreacted to this, just as they did six years ago."

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

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