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Rape suspect dies after being stunned by Taser

MONROE - Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman defended his deputies Tuesday following the death of a rape suspect who was Tasered at least once.

A Sheriff's Office deputy who discharged the Taser was placed on paid leave while the Georgia Bureau of Investigation reviews the case.

"From everything that I've been told, they have not violated any policy," said Chapman, referring to the deputy and a detective who confronted the suspect.

An autopsy was performed Tuesday on Leroy Patterson Jr., 41, who police suspected of raping a woman Monday morning in a tractor-trailer he resided in.

GBI spokesman John Bankhead said the full autopsy - which includes toxicology tests - could take several weeks to complete.

The alleged rape happened sometime before 5 a.m. Monday - about a half-hour before Patterson was Tasered, Chapman said. A female accused Patterson of raping her in his tractor-trailer, which he'd parked on a friend's property in Monroe.

Chapman said the suspect was combative as Sheriff's Office personnel arrived and began throwing evidence - including sheets - from his truck. He was warned several times he would be Tasered if he didn't comply, the sheriff said.

Following a scuffle in the truck, Patterson was Tasered at least once, Chapman said.

While handcuffed on scene, Patterson began "breathing heavy and apparently having a seizure" and later went into cardiac arrest at Walton County Hospital, Chapman said.

The Sheriff's Office has contacted Patterson's estranged wife, who lives in Florida. Chapman said audio tape from a patrol car's camera is under investigation.

Walton Sheriff's Office personnel rarely use Tasers, Chapman said.

Since January, the department has used Tasers just 12 times - during three patrol calls and nine incidents at the Walton County Jail. Patterson's death marks the first serious injury after Taser deployment, Chapman said.

"In my 22 years of law enforcement, a Taser is the best tool to come along," he said.