Thursday, December 25, 2008

Death After Taser Use, This Time in Texas

Another man is hit by multiple Taser shocks, the fourth and last being a "contact stun" (cite: MSNBC). The man was "running naked" through a North Houston area apartment complex and broke into a woman's front door. The Harris County Sheriff was called and deputies responded.

(ABC-13 Houston)"I saw a naked man just running," she said. "I was like, 'What?' And when I saw him, maybe I was seeing things."

But no. There was a nude man running around at 4am Wednesday, banging on car windows and apartment doors at the Trails at Dominion Grove apartment complex on Dominion near Kuykendahl.

"I was just like, this is crazy, and now when I come back, all the police are around and he was killed," she said.

The man died shortly after deputies used a Taser on him four times.

The man's antics caught the attention of residents who called 911. The final straw was when he barged into a woman's apartment.

"She repeatedly asked him to leave," said Sgt. Greg Pinkins with the Harris County Sheriff's Department. "He eventually left."

But next was a run-in with a sheriff's deputy. Investigators say the man climbed into the front passenger seat of a patrol car and wouldn't get out and the deputy hit him with a Taser. It had little effect. He tried again. But the man wasn't subdued until a second deputy arrived, and the man was hit with a Taser twice more.

"He resisted, resisted instructions, and resisted them and they had to resort to deploying a Taser," said Sgt. Pinkins.

This is the third death in the last few days in cases where police have deployed the Taser. One consistent thread in the deaths are the repeated hits when the subject is not subdued on the initial, or even second, Taser hit.

Police do seem to be relying on the Taser and it's reputedly abilities more than they should. From our earlier post, a former police officer stated:

An officer wouldn’t use a baton unless they were being assaulted--that is extreme physical force. But the Taser is being used in passive resistance: when an officer confronts a suspect, gives an order and the suspect isn’t compliant. In that situation many officers have used it as a non-compliant rule, like getting mouthy. If a cop used a baton that would be police brutality but for some reason the public thinks that the Taser is different, not a dangerous device. And there is the visual aspect: when you see someone beaten with a baton that is extreme but when you see someone Tasered and he doesn't fall, it doesn't look bad. Even so, it is a violent act; it just doesn’t look that way. (op. cit.)

The Taser deserves a place in the peace officer tool box. However, as described by the former officer above, it and the reputation Taser has crafted about their product is being relied on too heavily by police. When will the public and the departments that serve the public wake up and study the effects multiple hits from a Taser have on the body, particularly the bodies of those who are the most likely targets, the mentally and physically ill? We watch with little amazement, and often with amusement, as officers "hit" subjects multiple times with incapacitating electric shocks. As Officer Dial states above, we would react with horror and anger if we witnessed an equal deployment of the police baton. The latter may result in broken bones, the former a stopped heart. Which is the more cruel and dangerous?

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