Sledge Hammer Died of Neck Trauma, Lack of Oxygen to Brain

Dan Miller

LOS ANGELES — Adult performer Sledge Hammer died of neck trauma, a severe lack of oxygen to the brain and an inflammation of airways to his lungs, an official from the L.A. County coroner’s office said Friday. But in spite of a cause of death now being determined for the popular performer whose legal name was Marland Anderson, it remains unclear what led to these conditions, the coroner added.

The autopsy findings concluded that the exact causes of Anderson’s death were “neck compression,” “acute anoxic encephalopathy” and “aspiration pneumonia,” Ed Winter, assistant chief coroner for LA County, told XBIZ.

Winter said in addition to these findings that toxicology results have also been completed, but those results are not yet available. The toxicology results had been “deferred” for almost 16 weeks as additional tests were conducted.

“For some reason he became unresponsive and we don’t know why his airway was closed off,” Winter said. “And there was no broken [neck bone], but there was compression.”

Anderson died on April 13 at the age of 39. He had been in a coma for five days as a result of a cardiac arrest in the early morning hours of April 9, after an altercation with several Los Angeles police officers.

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith on Friday confirmed to XBIZ that an internal investigation into the police's handling of the incident is "still ongoing."

"Yes, we are investigating it," Smith said.

The incident started when Anderson's girlfriend, adult performer Alexa Cruz, called 911 about 1 a.m. on April 9 from the Reseda apartment where they had lived together for over a year when it appeared that Anderson might be suicidal.

When police and medical personnel tried to take him to the hospital in the ambulance, Anderson, who was suffering from what Cruz said was severe insomnia and mild schizophrenia, did not want to go. When he resisted, LAPD officers tried to subdue him twice with a Taser, using a technique called contact Tasing in which the darts aren't fired, an LAPD official told XBIZ at the time. Instead, the Taser is placed on the subject's body in an attempt to get him to comply. This technique, also known as a "Drive Stun," is intended to cause pain without incapacitating the target.

Both times the Taser was used on Anderson it was ineffective, LAPD spokesman Lt. Andrew Neiman said in April, adding that bodily force from several police officers, possibly between six and eight, was ultimately what got Anderson under control.