Family questions Matangi Tai's death in jail

PHOENIX - A Valley man who made headlines after a scuffle with police died while in jail.

Now some are questioning if he should have been behind bars in the first place.

Police video shows the scuffle between Matangi Tai and Mesa police officers earlier this year. Several officers held Tai down and used a Taser on him.

One of the officers who took him into custody noted in the police report that Tai made "irrational and incoherent statements" before his arrest.

They continued once Tai ended up in jail. During a jailhouse interview, it was clear Tai had trouble comprehending where he was. Proof, family friend Jeff Metcaff feels, shows Tai should have been put in a mental health hospital and not behind bars.

"I think what the family wanted, and what we all wanted to see, was him put in an in-patient program rather than jail or prison," said Metcaff.

New video of Tai in jail shows him running up and down a hall in jail shortly before he died this week.

It's not clear what caused his death. Results of the autopsy are pending but Tai's family is left wondering if he would still be alive if he had been given the proper treatment.

"They have more questions than answers. They are distraught, they're feeling helpless and they're feeling the system failed them," said Metcaff.

After being arrested last year in an unrelated case, a judge ruled Tai was not competent to stand trial because of a mental health issue.

The judge ruled Tai should be sent to involuntary treatment and even noted confinement was necessary for treatment because Tai was a threat to public safety.

But Metcaff said Tai somehow slipped through the cracks.

Print this article Back to Top