‘Excited Delirium’ and the Suspicious Death of Kenwin Garcia

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Kenwin Garcia was a 25-year-old African American man from Newark, New Jersey who died in 2008 on the side of a highway, after an altercation with state police. Christopher Baxter from NJ Advanced Media states that his death was claimed to be a result of “excited delirium.” The term is used to describe a lethal overdose of adrenaline that leads to heart or respiratory failure. But there is little medical evidence to support this official judgment in Garcia’s case, and there is wider controversy surrounding the interpretation of the symptoms that constitute the syndrome. In Garcia’s case specifically, an autopsy found he suffered severe internal injuries, including a broken breastbone and ribs, a torn kidney and extensive bleeding.

Baxter reports that, dashboard cameras in five patrol cars were not recording, and another was turned off during the struggle. Calls to 911 were not recorded, which officials blamed on an equipment malfunction. According to this report, Garcia’s family and the public have never been given a complete account of what happened to him, but one aspect of the case is clear. Critics contend that law enforcement officers invoke excited delirium, the official cause for Garcia’s death, as a justification for using excessive force on victims.

According to Shawn Shinneman from IRE News, Garcia’s family sued the state in 2010 and received $700,000 in settlement money. This money, however, came with a confidentiality clause that kept them from talking to Baxter.


Christopher Baxter, “What Killed Kenwin Garcia?” NJ Advance Media. October 1, 2014, http://www.nj.com/excited-delirium.

Shawn Shinneman, “Behind the Story: New Jersey reporter finds inconsistencies in 2008 death investigation,” IRE News, October 16, 2014, http://www.ire.org/blog/ire-news/2014/10/16/behind-story-new-jersey-reporter-finds-inconsisten/.

Student Researcher: Mayher Ratra (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Barry Preisler (Sonoma State University)