Taser Deaths Lead to Call to Limit Police Use
While Taser International claims that their popular stun guns, which are used by many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, are safe and deliver a non-lethal shock, at least 334 people in the United States have died since 2001 after being shocked by a Taser gun. Amnesty International has released a detailed report on the safety of Tasers, calling for the government to limit their deployment or suspend their use.
Tasers deliver a 50,000 volt shock, using a special technology that incapacitates neuromuscular function, allowing officers to avoid using their firearm in situations where a person poses a threat.
Unfortunately, these weapons are widely overused and abused by many in law enforcement, which could have potentially fatal consequences. Amnesty International has indicated that the use of Tasers should be limited to life-threatening situations or that their use should be suspended altogether.
According to an article posted at amnesty.org discussing the report on Taser deaths:
“Tasers are not the ‘non-lethal’ weapons they are portrayed to be,” said Angela Wright, US researcher at Amnesty International and author of the report. “They can kill and should only be used as a last resort.
“The problem with Tasers is that they are inherently open to abuse, as they are easy to carry and easy to use and can inflict severe pain at the push of a button, without leaving substantial marks.”
Amnesty International’s study – which includes information from 98 autopsies – found that 90 per cent of those who died after being struck with a Taser were unarmed and many did not appear to present a serious threat.
Many were subjected to repeated or prolonged shocks – far more than the five-second “standard” cycle – or by more than one officer at a time. Some people were even shocked for failing to comply with police commands after they had been incapacitated by a first shock.
In at least six of the cases where people died, Tasers were used on individuals suffering from medical conditions such as seizures – including a doctor who had crashed his car when he suffered an epileptic seizure. He died after being repeatedly shocked at the side of the highway when, dazed and confused, he failed to comply with an officer’s commands.
Police officers also used Tasers on schoolchildren, pregnant women and even an elderly person with dementia.
In March 2008, an 11-year-old girl with a learning disability was shocked with a Taser after she punched a police officer in the face. The officer had been called to the school in Orange County, Florida, after the child had become disturbed, pushing desks and chairs and spitting at staff.
Well over 100 Taser lawsuits have been filed throughout the United States on behalf of individuals who were killed by a Taser gun or suffered severe personal injury. Taser International, which is the maker of the weapon, has been named as a defendant in many of these police brutality lawsuits and wrongful death claims, but they have been largely successful defending themselves in cases until recently.
Bloomberg News reports that the manufacturer has been able to successfully get themselves dismissed from 77 Taser lawsuits, most of which were also filed against officers and the police departments. However, in June 2008, a jury awarded $6.2 million in a California wrongful death lawsuit filed against the company, which is believed to be the first product liability verdict against the manufacturer of the weapon. They are currently a party in about 40 other cases that are still pending.
The personal injury lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. investigate potential wrongful death lawsuits resulting from police brutality or police abuse throughout the United States. If you, a friend or family member have suffered a severe or fatal injury as a result of inappropriate or over use of a Taser gun, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.