- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) - A disabled Rhode Island man suffered a seizure and died after becoming distraught when a thief stole his dog carrier.

Family and friends of Stuart Gast Jr., 33, say he died Monday after chasing the thief outside his apartment building in Woonsocket, where he lived with his parents. They say Gast was developmentally disabled and had epilepsy, but he hadn’t had a seizure in more than eight years before suffering one Monday.

Relatives and friends say Gast had taken his beloved Chihuahua, Oreo, outside in the dog carrier that morning. Oreo was on a leash and the carrier was on the ground when a thief picked it up and ran off. Gast ran after the thief, inadvertently dragging and injuring Oreo, who could not keep up.

Gast’s mother, Rachel Currier, told The Woonsocket Call that her son was so distraught Oreo had been injured that he could not calm down the rest of the day. At around 4:30 p.m., she heard a thud in his bedroom and found him shaking and having a seizure. Then, he stopped shaking and she could not find a pulse. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The state medical examiner is performing an autopsy to determine his cause of death.

Family friend Lisa Jean believes Gast died of a broken heart.

“Being that worked up and that upset about it and end up dying is tragic, absolutely tragic,” she told WJAR-TV.

The thief got away, and police say no one has come forward with any tips. Gast’s mother told WJAR-TV she wants the thief to know what he or she did to her son.

Gast had been involved with Special Olympics for many years. His mother said she plans for him to be buried in his Special Olympics uniform.

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