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Autopsy shows officer died from blood clot to lung

April 17, 1997 GMT

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) _ A brain-damaged, paralyzed policeman who last year briefly emerged from his comalike state died from a blood clot in his lung, a medical examiner said Wednesday.

Gary Dockery’s paralysis increased his risk of getting blood clots, Hamilton County Medical Examiner Frank King said. The clot formed in Dockery’s leg and traveled to his lung, an autopsy showed.

Dockery, 43, died Tuesday, a year after he stunned family and doctors by talking for the first time since being shot point-blank in 1988.

He was shot by a drunken man angry at police for reprimanding him for making noise that bothered his neighbors.

Dockery fell into a stupor and stayed in a comalike state for 7 1/2 years. Then, on Feb. 11, 1996, he stirred and started talking. For several hours, he delighted relatives with unbridled conversation, recalling camping trips, his green Jeep, the names of his horses. He told his young sons he loved them.

Doctors couldn’t explain it, and tests were inconclusive. And although Dockery later grew more alert and was able to speak short phrases, he returned largely to silence.

With Dockery’s death, the shooting can be ruled a homicide. Samuel Frank Downey, the man who shot Dockery, cannot be tried for murder because he’s already been convicted, a district attorney said.

However, Dockery’s death will be considered when Downey becomes eligible for parole next year, Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox said.

In 1989, Downey was convicted of felonious assault with intent to commit murder. He was sentenced to 37 years in prison.