Chester County's coroner reversed a ruling from one of his predecessors Thursday, concluding that the manner of death was "homicide" for a Phoenixville man who had a violent encounter with police outside a concert in Camden.
Brett Katzenmoyer, 20, died five days after he was left with a concussion and broken nose from the 2007 incident. Then-Chester County Coroner Robert Satriale initially labeled the manner of death homicide, but changed it to "Could not be determined" after finding unprescribed morphine and sleeping pills in Katzenmoyer's system.
Katzenmoyer's family spent nearly 10 years fighting the ruling, saying his death was caused by injuries he received from two former Camden police officers, not drugs.
Coroner Gordon R. Eck began reexamining the case last year, at the request of Katzenmoyer's family.
Eck said Thursday he had issued a new death certificate after reviewing medical records, speaking to people who were involved in the case and "relevant specialists."
"Broadly speaking, homicide is any death at the hands of another person," Eck said. "For practical purposes, this may be refined to deaths that arise from acts a reasonably prudent person would have felt had a high degree of probability of producing bodily injury or death."
Eck did not elaborate. Satriale, who left the coroner's office in 2008, declined to comment.
"I'm just grateful that someone finally listened and researched and did the right thing," Katzenmoyer's mother, Ginger, said Thursday.
She said she would ask the Camden County Prosecutor's Office to reopen the investigation into the conduct of the former officers who arrested her son.
Attempts to reach the former officers, Ronald Lattanzio and John McArdle, through their attorneys Thursday were unsuccessful. The Camden City police force was replaced in 2013 with a county-run department.
The Prosecutor's Office said Thursday afternoon that "it would not be appropriate to comment because it is too soon to make any decision on the matter at hand. The Camden County Prosecutor's Office is still awaiting updated reports."
Ginger Katzenmoyer sued Camden City in federal court, and received a $750,000 settlement in 2013 and a letter conveying "sadness and regret" for her son's death, but no acknowledgement of responsibility.
Brett Katzenmoyer was arrested in August 2007 in the parking lot of the Tweeter Center, now the BB&T Pavilion, where he and six friends had come to drink before an O.A.R. concert.
A young woman summoned police after she said Katzenmoyer swung his fist, knocked a beer from her hands, and hit her chest, leaving a small red mark. The woman said Katzenmoyer was angry because her group, to which he had introduced himself, asked him to leave.
McArdle wrote in a police report that Katzenmoyer had refused to put his hands behind his back and swung them as McArdle and Lattanzio took him down and cuffed him during a "violent struggle."
The officers then took Katzenmoyer to Virtua Camden.
A hospital security guard told investigators that Katzenmoyer was threatening to sue the officers, and that McArdle repeatedly punched him in the face to "shut him up."
Police alleged that Katzenmoyer, with his hands cuffed in front of him, then tried to grab McArdle's holstered gun as McArdle and Lattanzio carried him on a board.
The security guard testified that Katzenmoyer, a Navy sailor, never reached for a gun and that the board simply tilted toward McArdle, who then "beat [Katzenmoyer] in the face, from the nose to the eye."
McArdle testified that neither he nor Lattanzio was disciplined for the incident after inquiries by the FBI and other agencies.
Katzenmoyer was charged with simple assault and resisting arrest, but his mother said the charges were later dropped. He returned home after brief hospital stays in Camden, at Virtua and then at Cooper University Hospital.
On Aug. 20, 2007, two days after the arrest, he got a CT scan at Pottstown Hospital for bloody fluid leaking from his ears, but it showed nothing amiss.
The following evening, at home, he told his mother, "I love you," and went to sleep. She found him unconscious in his bed the next day.
He was taken to Phoenixville Hospital, where he died Aug. 23.
Brett's brother, Kevin, 26, said Thursday the new ruling on the manner of death gives him hope the family will get justice for Brett.