Tasers can be Lethal Weapons, It’s Time Our Police Departments Figured this Out
When the Taser’s prongs hit her back, Danielle Maudsley spun backward and smacked her head on the pavement. A nearby dash-cam recorded the fall, even capturing the sound of her head cracking on the asphalt. Maudsley, 20, clutched her head and struggled to rise. “I can’t get up,” she moaned, her final words. Then she went still.
She was in a vegetative state for almost two years. Doctors told her family she would never wake up. This week, two state agencies cleared Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Daniel Cole of any wrongdoing in the September incident, which occurred as Maudsley tried to escape from an FHP station in Pinellas Park. But several experts and researchers who reviewed reports and video of the incident said the case raises questions.
They are troubled that Cole tasered Maudsley, a suspect in two hit-and-run crashes who had drugs in her system, while she was handcuffed. They also noted that Cole was just steps behind Maudsley when he fired the Taser. “It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Greg Connor, a professor at the University of Illinois Police Training Institute who specializes in use of force. “I don’t see where it’s going to be that hard to apprehend her.”
Danielle Maudsley was in handcuffs when she tried to run from Trooper Cole in
September of 2011. She fell back and hit her head after being shot in the back with a taser by Cole. This left her brain dead. She died in 2013 from her injuries. Cole got a two-week vacation, no punishment for this direct violation of policy and said he would do it again.
Tasers Pose Risks to Heart, a Study Warns
By ERICA GOODE
Published: April 30, 2012
The electrical shock delivered to the chest by a Taser can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death, according to a new study, although it is unknown how frequently such deaths occur.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Tasers deliver a current through barbs that are shot into the clothes and skin.
The study, which analyzed detailed records from the cases of eight people who went into cardiac arrest after receiving shocks from a Taser X26 fired at a distance, is likely to add to the debate about the safety of the weapons. Seven of the people in the study died; one survived.
Kelly Thomas’s death in 2011 sparked national outcry… officers were caught on tape brutally beating, kicking and tasing a schizophrenic homeless man to death… and they got a paid vacation. He was tased multiple times, but what killed him was an officer beating him in the head with the butt of his taser while he was lying virtually motionless on the ground, held down by several officers. Kelly was calling for his dad and saying “help me daddy, they’re killing me.” His father, a retired officer with the same department, called it murder.
Advocacy groups like Amnesty International have argued that Tasers, the most widely used of a class of weapons known as electrical control devices, are potentially lethal and that stricter rules should govern their use.
But proponents maintain that the devices — which are used by more than 16,700 law enforcement agencies in 107 countries, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser — pose less risk to civilians than firearms and are safer for police officers than physically tackling a suspect. The results of studies of the devices’ safety in humans have been mixed.
Medical experts said on Monday that the new report, published online on Monday in the journal Circulation, makes clear that electrical shocks from Tasers, which shoot barbs into the clothes and skin, can in some cases set off irregular heart rhythms, leading to cardiac arrest.
The photo at left is of 14-year-old Joseph Williams’ face after police in Bucks County, Pennsylvania tased him. The taser device was originally designed as a less-lethal weapon that could be employed on the force continuum below the handgun. It was meant to to be used as a weapon to stop a threatening person, not as a compliance tool.
Pennsylvania citizens have tired of this pattern of behavior from their public servants. Joseph Williams was assaulted by Tullytown Police officers who Tasered him in the face while handcuffed, fractured his nose, and locked him away for three days without being able to contact his mother or get legal representation.
“This is no longer arguable,” said Dr. Byron Lee, a cardiologist and director of the electrophysiology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. “This is a scientific fact. The national debate should now center on whether the risk of sudden death with Tasers is low enough to warrant widespread use by law enforcement.”
The author of the study, Dr. Douglas P. Zipes, a cardiologist and professor emeritus at Indiana University, has served as a witness for plaintiffs in lawsuits against Taser — a fact that Mr. Tuttle said tainted the findings. “Clearly, Dr. Zipes has a strong financial bias based on his career as an expert witness,” Mr. Tuttle said in an e-mail, adding that a 2011 National Institute of Justice report concluded there was no evidence that Tasers posed a significant risk of cardiac arrest “when deployed reasonably.”
However, Dr. Robert J. Myerburg, a professor of medicine in cardiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that Dr. Zipes’s role in litigation also gave him extensive access to data from medical records, police records and autopsy reports. The study, he said, had persuaded him that in at least some of the eight cases, the Taser shock was responsible for the cardiac arrests.
“I think when we put together the preponderance of what we know about electrical shocks with his observations, there’s enough to say that the phenomenon occurs,” he said. But he added, “I suspect the incidence of these fatal events is going to be low and can be minimized by the precautions.”
Police officers, he said, should take precautions when using the weapons and avoid multiple shocks, prolonged shocks and shocks to the chest.
“I’d rather see Tasers out there than bullets flying around,” Dr. Myerburg said. “But if you have a choice, if the circumstances allow you to avoid either, then physical restraint should be considered.”
634 Taser-Related Deaths in the United States Since 2001
Today we added 54-year old Macario Garcia (Pleasanton, TX) as the 283rdtaser-related death in America since 2009. [NOTE: the full list is shown below].
According to Amnesty International, between 2001 and 2008, 351 people in the United States died after being shocked by police Tasers. Our blog has documented another 283 taser-related deaths in the United States in 2009-2014. That means there have been 634 documented taser-related deaths in America.
The 6 Most Shocking Cases of Police Taser Abuse
Some of the most egregious examples of taser abuse by police around the country, illustrating why the willy-nilly increase of taser use is terrible for citizens.
1. Man having diabetic seizure tasered 11 times: In April 2009, Prospero Lassi suffered a diabetes-induced seizure at his home in the Chicago suburb of LaGrange Park. Lassi’s roommate called 911, and both EMTs and police responded. When the EMTs asked police officers to help move Lassi, who had been unable to move his body, one of Lassi’s arms flailed uncontrollably, striking one of the officers. According to Lassi, he was then tasered an incredible 11 times, for nearly a minute, as he lay immobilized. The attack was so severe that Lassi was hospitalized for five days and out of work for three months due to the injuries he sustained that day.
2. Officers taser 14-year-old boy, sending him into cardiac arrest:In February 2005, Chicago police were called on a young teenager living in a state group home who was reportedly acting out. According to Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris, the boy had calmed down and was sitting on a couch when the police arrived. Nevertheless, officers said the boy lunged at them, so they tasered him, sending him into cardiac arrest.
3. Officers repeatedly taser, threaten to sodomize foster children:Elsewhere in Illinois, at the Southern Thirty Adolescent Center in Mt. Vernon, two officers lashed out unprovoked at several foster youth in July 2008, repeatedly using a taser on them. One of the officers also threatened to sodomize a young man, causing the boy to soil himself. Both the county sheriff and the Illinois State Police determined that the officers had done nothing wrong. A lawsuit brought against the officers was settled for $750,000.
4. Mentally ill man falls to his death after being tasered:In September 2008, police were called on a “naked and apparently emotionally disturbed” man who was yelling and swinging a light fixture from a Brooklyn window ledge. Rather than try to get the man down safely, an officer shot him with a taser, and the man fell to his death. As a tragic coda to the story, the lieutenant who ordered that the man be tasered took his own life shortly thereafter.
5. Bipolar man killed by taser for running down street naked:In another case of police inappropriately deploying tasers to subdue mentally ill individuals, a bipolar man in Arizona was tasered in June 2009 when he was found running down the street naked during a manic episode. After the unarmed man plead with officers not to shoot, they did anyway, twice, ultimately killing him. Even worse, neither of the officers at the scene bothered to check if the man was still breathing after the attack.
6. 10-year-old child tasered at day care:A young child at Tender Teddies Day Care in Martinsville, Indiana, who was “kicking and screaming” was, absurdly, tasered by police officers “to prevent [him] from hurting other children, staff members and himself.” The two responding officers were investigated for using excessive force.