The death of former Highland Park Presbyterian Church senior pastor Bryan Dunagan has been deemed an accident by the medical examiner, executive pastor Jay Lee wrote in an email to the church family on Jan. 23.
Dunagan’s death was due to “a combination of alcohol and two commonly prescribed medicines, in their regular therapeutic amounts,” according to Robert Burke, an anesthesiologist who is an elder at the church.
Bryan Dunagan, 44, was found unresponsive in his home on Oct. 26. The night of Oct. 25, Dunagan went running with a good friend. Dunagan was “an avid athlete” and “one of his favorite ways to connect with people was running side-by-side,” his widow, Ali, wrote in a letter to the church family.
That night, Dunagan took tramadol, a pain medication he had been prescribed due to a knee injury he suffered playing lacrosse in college, Ali wrote. The same evening, the Dunagans hosted a family dinner and Bryan “enjoyed drinks with the family while playing with the kids and monitoring the grill,” she continued.
Bryan was also taking a low dose of sertraline, a medication he had been prescribed for anxiety. Sertraline is a generic version of Zoloft, Burke wrote.
Bryan had preached to the church about his struggles with anxiety, explaining on Jan. 29, 2023 that he had gone through “a paralyzing season of anxiety” when he first came to Dallas. “With God’s help, and through counseling, and an amazing wife who is far more emotionally self-aware, I have found incredible freedom,” he said, while explaining that he still struggles with anxiety.
“We’ve all been warned about the possible side effects and interactions of medications. Unfortunately, Bryan is in the small statistic of folks for whom these interactions were fatal,” Ali Dunagan wrote.
She thanked church members for their support, and called on the church family to “Look with me to the One who is with us, who numbers our days, and who was with Bryan, holding him gently as he passed from this life to eternal glory.”