Taser Deaths Lead to Call to Limit Police Use

Austin Kirk

By Austin Kirk
Posted December 17, 2008


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.

4 Comments • Add Your Comments

  • Timothy says:

    I was tasered on July 7th, 2009 after suffering a gran mal seizure during a graduate school class. The police responded and chose to taser me minutes later after I failed to comply with their orders to go with the ambulance personell. It was my right to refuse medical attention. The officer in charge tasered me in spite of the fact that he knew I had a seizure and was not completely aware of my surroundings and was not being violent in any way. Afterwards the officer charged me with harassment in the 2nd degree. I now have to go to court for this matter, and he does not have any consequences at all!

    Posted on July 9, 2009 at 12:45 pm

  • Candice says:

    So unfair to you, sorry you had to experience that. Almost like what we had experienced. I can not believe you call 911 for someone having a seizure and state to them someone is having a seizure please send me help and officers come and first thing they ask of course is this person on drugs, no this person is having a seizure and then they start immediately retraining the person, which is totally wrong not only did he suffer abuse from the Authority he also was tase more than once which could have ended his life and I had to witness the whole thing which has changed my life for ever to see a person go thru that just because a medical condition which is out of there control. I am damaged for good after experiencing seeing that and hearing him scream from being tased and to this day, he is not the same. Some damage was done to him I’m still in stock and havent been able to sleep at night because of the nightmare and fear I have of this happening all over again and will he be so lucky to survive the abuse again…. I

    Posted on October 1, 2009 at 1:49 am

  • Deanna says:

    My son suffered a gran mal seizure. His brother phoned 911 for medical assistance. When the firefighters/paramendics arrived, my son was in the postictal stage of his seizure and unable to understand and/or comply to commands. His brother informed the paramedics as this stage follows every one of his seizures. The firefighters tried to strap him on a gurney and in his confusion, my son resisted. The police were called and upon their arrival, they tazed my son 13 time (the tazer gun was actually fired 15 times). During this time, his lower body was strapped to the gurney. The other officers and their reports claim he was tazed one time….I heard, via cell phone, a minimum of 5 tazes and my son screaming. The emotional damage suffered can never be undone. Something must be done to train and educate the very people that we depend on for help, the people that are supposed to “protect and serve”.

    Posted on September 14, 2010 at 1:01 pm

  • Chris says:

    On March 03, 2012 I suffered a Grand Mal seizure while with a friend of mine. Due to my history of Epilepsy and relatively violent seizures, the ambulance was called. After it was decided that I was being uncooperative with the paramedics, the local (Scranton, PA) police were called to assist. Apparently during my postictal confusion, or perhaps during another seizure, I fled the building that I was in, another event of which I have zero recollection. According to witnesses, police TASERED me TWICE during that period, TACKLED me to the ground, and I was arrested for several criminal charges (Resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, simple assault…). All while having almost ZERO recollection of any of the events that transpired, with the exception of being tackled to the ground after being Tasered not once, but TWICE by a member of the Scranton PD., despite repeated warnings from my friend that I am Epileptic and had just suffered a Grand Mal seizure(s).
    Grand Mal seizures; 50,000+ volts TWICE; a member of the Scranton P.D.’s boot pressing my head into the pavement; filthy,torn clothing from the wet ground; over one (1) week later, and still cuts on hands from allegedly double-locked handcuffs while I was postictal. At least I didn’t attempt to establish my identity by showing my license – no doubt I’d be a statistic by now if I reached for my wallet.

    Posted on March 12, 2012 at 11:32 am

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