Autopsy: Single punch did not kill Iowa man

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DES MOINES, Iowa (Des Moines Register) –  A Des Moines father who died after reportedly being punched once in the face was not killed by a blow to the head, according to the Polk County Medical Examiner.

An autopsy found that Ryan Thompson had large amounts of methamphetamine in his system when he died from a hemorrhagic stroke, according to Gregory Schmunk, the medical examiner. There is no evidence that he died from a punch to the head, he said.

“It’s an accidental death because of the meth. It raises your blood pressure acutely and can cause a stroke,” Schmunk said.

According to a police report, Thompson, 32, was standing in the driveway of his south-side home the afternoon of July 10 when a man reportedly approached him, shouting that Thompson owed him money. The man struck Thompson once in the face.

Thompson was dazed, but he made his way inside the home. Officers reported that he was speaking unintelligibly and slurring his words. He died a day later at Iowa Methodist Medical Center.

A hemorrhagic stroke results when a weakened vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. The accumulating blood presses against the surrounding brain tissue.

Thompson’s fiancee told police that she did not know the man who punched him. He pulled up in a dark sedan and drove away after throwing one punch.

Although a single punch to the head causing death is uncommon, it’s not impossible, Einar Bogason, a neurosurgeon with Mercy Medical Center, said in a recent interview.

“They could have a skull fracture and it could be that there’s a bleed inside the skull,” he said.

Bogason said it’s possible for a person to lose consciousness, wake up and experience an interval of semi-consciousness.

“If nobody is with them and they just decide to sleep it off, they could actually not wake up after that,” Bogason said.

Detectives had identified the person they believe threw the punch, but no charges have been filed. An attorney representing Thompson’s family said Wednesday that it’s their intention to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court against the man who threw the punch.

Sgt. Paul Parizek of the Des Moines Police Department said detectives are still waiting on additional medical test results.

Thompson’s ex-wife, Ashley Waddell, 32, described him as an amazing father to their two children.

“He was the life of every party. He was so funny and had a huge heart. He truly made everyone light up the moment he stepped in the room,” Waddell said.

Photo details – (Photo: Submitted photo/Special to the Register)