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updated: 3/11/2012 12:11 AM

Candidate criticizes coroner over Hanna case

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  • Artis Yancey

      Artis Yancey

  • Thomas Rudd

      Thomas Rudd

 
 

A candidate for Lake County coroner criticized incumbent Artis Yancey over a high-profile death investigation Thursday.

Dr. Thomas Rudd, who is challenging Yancey in the March 20 Democratic primary, blasted Yancey for not providing an "unequivocal" cause for the death of Darrin Hanna, Hanna died Nov. 13 a few days after a violent confrontation with North Chicago police officers at his home.

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The coroner's office found a combination of factors contributed to Hanna's death. They included cocaine abuse, physical trauma and restraint, restraint from a stun gun, poorly controlled high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease, Yancey said in a statement Wednesday.

Those results were based on a police investigation, an autopsy, toxicology studies, interviews and other medical examinations, Yancey said.

Rudd, who has hung his political hat on his medical degree and criticized Yancey for not being a doctor, was not satisfied. In an email sent to the media Thursday, Rudd said the coroner's work and findings "must be independent of law enforcement agencies."

Rudd also accused Yancey of covering up "rogue North Chicago law enforcement murder."

Yancey responded by condemning Rudd for turning Hanna's death into a campaign issue.

"Shame on Mr. Rudd for politicizing the death of a Lake County citizen ... and speaking on a subject he has absolutely no information on," Yancey said.

No criminal charges have been filed in Hanna's death.

Several North Chicago police officers were placed on desk duty following Hanna's death, and police Chief Michael Newsome retired after being placed on leave by Mayor Leon Rockingham.

The case remains under investigation.

When contacted by the Daily Herald, Rudd refused to answer follow-up questions.

Republicans Steve Newton and Howard Cooper are running for the GOP nomination for coroner. Neither has issued a statement concerning Hanna's death or the ensuing investigation.

Yancey was appointed coroner by the Lake County Board last year, filling a vacancy. He previously had served as Waukegan's police chief and as an officer in that city.

Under Illinois law, coroners are law enforcement officials and do not perform autopsies. Medical examiners, such as the one in Cook County, are physicians and can perform autopsies.

In interviews, Rudd has pledged to push for the coroner's office to be converted to a medical examiner system. He also has repeatedly criticized Yancey over his qualifications for the job.

That continued in his email to the media Thursday.

"The coroner needs to be an independent, apolitical (and) neutral medical death investigator," Rudd said. "This coroner is anything but that and needs to be removed from office immediately."

Yancey called Rudd's comments "totally irresponsible."

The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries will face off in the November general election.

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