Police aren’t releasing the name just yet, but another man died this weekend in Waterbury, Connecticut, after being zapped with a Taser. Of course, Taser International will report that Tasers don’t kill people. When folks die, it is as a result of something called spontaneous in-custody death syndrome.
A cryptic press report over the weekend relays the following: police were called to a local hospital emergency room. A man there was agitated and apparently out of control. The officers arrested the man for breach of the peace, and then placed him in the rear of the police cruiser. When the man still would not calm down, the officers shot him with their Taser. Despite the fact that the shooting took place at the hospital, the man could not be revived, and he died.
The manufacturers of this device contend it is safe, and that its long distance method of delivering disabling voltage saves police lives and prevents injuries to officers. Why go toe to toe with a resisting defendant and perhaps get hurt when you can zap the resister into a mass of quivering flesh? Whenever a medical examiner suggests that the Taser was a cause of death, the Taser folks jump ugly. They’ve even sued medical examiners for these so-called defamatory opinions.
The law regarding the use of force by police permits a cop to use that level of force necessary to overcome the resistance of suspect. This is not what the law calls a bright-line test. It is a flexible standard which takes into account such things as the risk posed by the resisting individual, the reason for his detention, and the other means available to overcoming resistance.
Most police departments do have rules about the use of blunt trauma to the head or neck, prohibiting the practice except when deadly force is justified. These departments regard Taser as harmless, however.
In the Waterbury case, a man was arrested for a misdemeanor and taken into custody. He was placed in a cruiser. He was no risk of flight at this point as the backseats of police cruisers do not have handles permitting the occupant to open the car door. At most, a Taser was going to disable the man temporarily; it does not render a person unconscious, in most cases. Except when a Taser kills. As it does from time to time.
I tried a police misconduct case in federal court not long ago. My client was walking away from a cop who tried to question him. She zapped him in the back. He fell face first, losing a couple of teeth. She testified that she was justified in using the Taser because she was alone, he appeared to be drunk, and she thought he might be headed toward an area of college dormitories, where anything could happen.
"Welcome to the national debate about the use of Tasers," I told the jury.
"I don’t know anything about a so-called debate," defense counsel said in response.
Only fools, liars and paid whores are unaware of the fact that Tasers can kill. Indeed, the industry acknowledges that there is an increased risk of death when the person shot is either intoxicated or impaired and mentally ill. They call it spontaneous in-custody death syndrome.
A man is dead in Waterbury because the police killed him. He was at a hospital upset, a common enough occurrence. He was placed in the back of a police cruiser after his arrest, again a common enough occurrence. Then he was zapped with a device that can kill.
Why did this happen? Because we pretend that Tasers are no more dangerous than party favors. How many more people will die before we insist on better training for police, and truth from an industry that teaches officers to shoot knowing full well the officers might just kill the person struck?