By RYAN J. FOLEY Associated Press

Taylor Ware’s mom just wanted to get her son the help he needed.

But her home was 400 miles away and Ware was deep into a manic episode at an interstate rest stop in rural southern Indiana.

“I need someone to come, OK, so that he can get help at a mental hospital. I don’t know what else to do,” Ware’s mom told the 911 dispatcher. “Please make sure to tell them he needs, you know, mental help.”

Instead of help, she watched as her 24-year-old son was bitten by a police dog, shocked with a Taser, pinned to the ground in handcuffs and injected with a potent sedative.

Ware’s August 2019 death was among more than 1,000 over a decade that an investigation by The Associated Press documented after police used common use-of-force tactics that, unlike guns, are meant to stop people without killing them. Many involved a response to someone in mental crisis — a challenging role officers play in big cities and small towns.

Relatives and friends recalled Ware as an “all-American boy,” a fun-loving son, brother and uncle who enjoyed the outdoors and his motorcycle. He followed his father and grandfather into the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating high school in Kearney, Missouri, working in air traffic control in San Diego.

Ware was honorably discharged after five years and planned to travel the world and attend college. But he had begun struggling with bipolar disorder, and his efforts to start a post-service life collided with times he would lose touch with reality. It was one such episode that had led his mom to pick Ware up from a jail in Kentucky, where he had recently moved.

Ware’s friends had tried to get him hospital treatment, but doctors concluded Ware did not meet the bar for involuntary commitment. He never checked into the hotel where his friends urged him to stay.

An officer in Richmond, Kentucky, arrested Ware after responding to a report of a shirtless, barefoot man screaming on Main Street. He was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication by a controlled substance, though there was no evidence he’d taken drugs.

Ware’s mother, Robin Rank, convinced jailers to hold him until she could arrive the next morning, fearful he would be released in an unsafe state of mind. Rank drove with a friend more than 600 miles from Kansas City, Missouri, to get him, and now they were heading back.

After several hours on the road struggling to keep Ware calm, they stopped at the Interstate 64 rest area in Dale, Indiana. Ware climbed out a window of the SUV, began acting strangely, and would not get back in. He was hearing voices.

Rank called 911 — she didn’t know what else to do. She advised the dispatcher that Ware was agitated and would need a “safe zone,” warning that he was likely to resist.

The first officer to arrive was an unpaid reserve marshal from Dale, population 1,500. Christian Losiewski assured Rank he had experience with mental health calls. Rank said she urged him to wait for backup but Losiewski said that wasn’t necessary — his partner, a police dog named Tripp, was by his side.

Ware offered to shake the officer’s hand, then calmly sat in the grass. Tripp started barking aggressively and yanking on his leash. Ware recoiled. It was the type of provocation officers are warned to avoid when seeking to calm people with mental illness.

Soon after, Ware walked away, and Losiewski followed. Ware ignored orders to stop, then shoved him and ran, the officer would tell others in a scene recorded on video.

The friend who accompanied Ware’s mom, Pauline Engel, said she didn’t see any push, but watched as Tripp attacked at his handler’s command, repeatedly biting Ware in the thigh. As he tried to fend off the dog, backup arrived.

“I rolled up and that’s when all hell broke loose,” Officer Robert Bone of the Santa Claus Police Department told others after the encounter, according to his body camera video. Bone put his knee on Ware’s face and used his Taser to shock Ware with its drive-stun feature on the side, stomach and sternum during the struggle, according to his incident report.

Taser guidelines advise to avoid the chest and neck and limit drive-stuns against people with mental illnesses and others unlikely to respond to “pain compliance.” Bone explained the force in his report by saying Ware ignored commands to stop fighting the dog and officers, spat on him, tried to bite him, and grabbed his Taser.

Once officers gained control, they held Ware on the ground and eventually turned him facedown and handcuffed him, according to his autopsy report and cellphone video of the incident obtained by the AP.

An officer yelled toward a paramedic to bring ketamine, a powerful sedative which immobilizes agitated people within minutes but can cause breathing and heart problems.

Soon after an injection, a bloodied Ware stopped breathing and was carried into an ambulance on a backboard. He went into a coma and died days later at a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

After the violence, the witness video shows Losiewski telling Ware’s mother that he “tried my best.” She questioned whether they should have just waited and let Ware sit. Losiewski defended his decision to release the canine, calling it a “classic, textbook dog deployment.”

Two police practices experts who reviewed the case for AP, Karen Laser and Stan Kephart, rejected that assertion. They said that Losiewski’s decision not to wait for backup and to meet Ware with his dog triggered a chain of events that resulted in an unnecessary death.

Laser said the officer did not have sufficient justification to order the dog to attack Ware, who wasn’t a public safety threat and had not committed a crime until he “possibly touched or nudged” the officer.

“This was an excessive use of force,” said Laser, who has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement in California.

Authorities downplayed the police role in Ware’s death.

The state police announced in a press release that Ware died after suffering a “medical event” after he “allegedly battered” an officer. In declining criminal charges, a prosecutor wrote that officers handled the call with “incredible patience and restraint” and “great professionalism.”

Police said Bone’s body camera failed to record the incident but captured its aftermath. On that video, Bone and Losiewski recounted how Bone threatened that he would “kill” Ware if Ware bit him during the struggle. “I guess I shouldn’t have said that,” Bone said, laughing.

Bone declined an interview request, saying in an email, “It was a traumatic event for all involved.” Losiewski declined comment.

A coroner ruled Ware’s death was natural, caused by his mental illness and “excited delirium” — a disputed condition of life-threatening agitation used for decades to explain the deaths of people restrained by police. The National Association of Medical Examiners said last year it does not endorse the condition as a cause of death.

Dr. Carl Wigren, a forensic pathologist in Seattle who reviewed the case for AP, said he believed that Ware died from restraint asphyxia, citing video that appears to show officers putting pressure on his chest and abdomen while he was on the ground. Wigren said the death should have been ruled a homicide. He said it’s unclear whether ketamine contributed, in part because authorities have not released how much Ware received. His autopsy noted that midazolam, another sedative commonly administered by medics, was also in his blood.

The official death ruling discouraged the family from pursuing a civil lawsuit aimed at bringing accountability and change.

Ware’s mother said the whole system failed her son. She said it was irresponsible for the hospital in Kentucky to turn him away, and that police need more training on how to de-escalate situations and safely restrain people in a mental health crisis.

“It has to change. They can’t go on doing this,” she said. “It can’t keep happening.”

Ware’s father, Tom Ware, called the combination of force and sedation a recipe for disaster that killed the “light of my life.”

Taylor Ware was an organ donor. Tom Ware has stayed in touch with the man who received his son’s heart, sometimes asking to listen to it beat.

Last June, on what would have been Taylor Ware’s 28th birthday, Tom Ware visited his grave as he had countless times before. He sang a Marines song and updated his son on their beloved Kansas City Chiefs.

“Just breaks my heart that I have to talk to you like this,” the father said. “And we’ll be meeting someday. We’re going to have some good times like we used to.”