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Two very public stun gun incidents in September, 2007 caused ABC News to raise the question that should have been asked long before that day: "Are cops using Tasers too often?" (Quote from ABC News article, Sept. 21, 2007) ABC News reported that on Mon., Sept. 10, 2007 deputies from the Orange County, California Sheriff's Department shocked a 15-year old old autistic boy with 50 thousand volts of electricity because he was "acting suspicious," but without doing anything violent. Deputies found 15-year old Taylor Karras, who disappeared while attending a counseling session at the Orange County Regional Center in Westminister, was reported pushing a shopping cart down Newport Avenue. Police were asked to find the autistic boy by his mother, Doris Karras. Thus, the police knew the "subject" was a 15-year old with diminished capacity even though he stood 5'10" and had a beard. Karras told the Los Angeles Times that had the police officers spoken to her son in a non-threatening manner, he would have followed their directions without question or hesitation. A pedestrian spotted Taylor Karras 16 miles from the clinic in Tustin. The pedestrian called the Tustin police department to report a "suspicious" person. The Tustin police called the Sheriff's office which responded.

A spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, Jim Amormino, told ABC News "...the use of the Taser was definitely justified. The deputy had two seconds of contact with the suspect before he started screaming and running into traffic. If he hadn't been Tasered, he could easily have been killed by a car. The suspect, the officers, drivers on the road and pedestrians all could have been at risk if the suspect continued into traffic." Amormino said deputies were justified because when the officers commanded him to stop, Karras purportedly yelled something back at them and ran across Newport Avenue. Lost on Amormino in his justification to use a stun gun on a mentally challenged boy who posed no physical threat to anyone was the fact that stun guns are supposed to be an alternative to deadly force in subduing subjects who pose a deadly threat to law enforcement officers.

That same evening a University of Florida senior, Andrew Meyers (who was described by frequent Fox News guest correspondent Michelle Malkin as a "goofball," a celebrity-taunter and a YouTube publicity hound who was seeking his YouTube moment in history), staged his own date with the stun gun after Meyers grabbed a microphone in a roomful of people listening to Sen. John Kerry [D-MA] in order to ask the Senator a series of questions designed to provoke him—and campus police. Meyers wantd to know whether or not Kerry had ever been a member of Yale's Skull & Bones secret society. In Meyer's case, because he brought along his own videographer, we know he staged his own assault by campus police in order to achieve his own very painful 15-minutes of fame.

On Tuesday as Meyers was making YouTube fame pleading with campus police not to use the stun gun on him, University of Florida president J. Bernard Machen called the incident, and the arrest, of the college senior "regretful." Machen launched a university inquiry and asked the Florida Highway Patrol to investigate the justification of the campus police to use a stun gun on a student who simply refused to surrender a microphone. Like ABC News I found both stun gun assaults—and they were assaults—troubling.

Pulse technology energy weapons (stun guns) are dangerous even when used properly (which very few, if any, police departments do). Stun guns today are rapidly becoming "gender equalizers" for the "weaker sex" to deal with unruly men who are larger and stronger than they are. No police officer anywhere knows the health of any person they accost, and whether that person has a cardiac condition or some other health problem that would be aggravated by an electrical charge from a stun gun. Which means there is always a chance that a stun gun encounter can be lethal for a person who is pulsed—particularly when he or she receives several jolts. Stun guns are deadly weapons. They are substitutes for deadly force. Theoretically, that's why they were developed and put into use. Dropping a life-threatening, or bodily injury-threatening suspect with an electrical charge is better than dropping him with a 9mm slug.

According to the Taser™ website, their pulse weapons were designed to "...incapacitate dangerous, combative, or high-risk suspects who pose a risk to law enforcement officers..." and is "...a safer alternative to other uses of force." Most of the police agencies which use them abuse them. Stun guns were not designed to subdue 15-year autistic boys, nor were they designed to subdue college seniors who ask embarrassing questions to politicians.

An 82-year old Kamloops, British Columbia bypass recipient was rushed to Royal Inland Hospital on March 22, 2008 with emphysema aggravated by pneumonia. The patient, former prison guard Frank Lesser, suffered from a form of dementia triggered by his breathing difficulties. Lasser's breathing disorder required him to carry a portable oxygen tank at all times. Lasser entered the hospital as an inpatient through the emergency room. He was assigned a bed and an "air-conditioned" hospital gown.

From the sketchy and somewhat confusing details of the events that triggered hospital personal to call the Royal Canadian Mounted Police [RCMP] Kamloops detachment (and keeping in mind that Lasser had already been admitted and was in a traditional hospital bed when the incident happened), a nurse reported to the police that Lasser became delusional and pulled a knife out of his pocket. (Since hospital gowns don't come with pockets, its unclear what "pocket" Lasser pulled the knife from.) It is clear, however, that when three RCMP officers from the Kamloops detachment arrived in his room where the 82-year old man lay in bed, he had a knife in his hand. Since he was delirious at the time, he's not sure how he came to have it. He admitted he threatened the nurses whom he felt were not doing enough to ease his breathing problems.

When Kamloops detachment RCMP Corporal Scott Wilson was interviewed by CBC News, he said "...whether the person is 80 or 20, we are dealing with a person who had a deadly weapon in [his] hand. We could not deploy our pepper spray because we could potentially contaminate the entire hospital." Instead, without knowing the extent of the octogenarian patient's medical problems, the three police officers decided the best way to handle an 82-year old bedridden patient in respiratory distress was to shoot him with stun guns three times.

Lasser said when the RCMP officers entered his room he was prone, in bed (suggesting he was likely not in bed when the incident with the nurses happened). Most likely, Lasser got the pocket knife from his pants pocket hanging in the closet in his room and waved it at the nurses who, in his mind, were ignoring his distress. He said he was so weak and exhausted that the cops could have easily disarmed him without the use of stuns guns. "I was laying on the bed by then and the corporal came in, or the sergeant, and said to the guys: 'Okay, get him because we got more important work to do on the street tonight.' And then, bang, bang, bang—three times with the taser—and, I tell you, I never want that again. They said: "That'll teach him to bring a knife into a hospital, then.'"

Lasser still had the knife in his hand when the officers arrived but, according to him, he was no longer threatening anyone. According to reports, no effort was made by the officers to disarm the 82-year old man. The stun gun was simply the most expedient way to disarm him. As he lay in bed, he was shot in the stomach three times.

CBC News (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) reported that the number of RCMP stun gun incidents have more than doubled since 2005. According to news reports, Mounties across Canada used, or threatened to use, stun guns more than 1,400 times In 2006 compared to 597 times in 2005. In British Columbia (where the Lasser incident happened in March), stun gun incidents increased from 218 in 2005 to 496 last year. Although reports of greatly increased use of stun guns by Canadian police official have been confirmed by the Canadian news media, police agencies are less willing to share data about the use of stun guns with the media. According to CBC News, Mounties are required to complete a report anytime an officer uses, or threatens to use, a stun gun on a Canadian citizen. The report must include information about the incident and whether the person upon whom the stun gun is used appeared to be suffering from mental illness or was armed—and whether the action resulted in any type of injury.

Changes in the law in Canada occurred last year when an immigrant to Canada from Gliwice, Poland, Robert Dziekanski, was killed in a stun gun incident at the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dziekanski was headed to Kamloops to live with his mother. Kamloops, of course, is where Frank Lasser tangled with a stun gun in the hands of the RCMP. Video of the incident, caught on a traveler's cell phone, made it to YouTube and was shown all over the world, triggering an investigation of the use of stun guns by the Canadian government—and new legislation to force more transparency by the police when stun guns are used. However, police transparency is almost nonexistent according to Canadians who are criticizing the federal law enforcement officers for their continued lack of transparency. "The RCMP is a public police force," public safety critic and former British Columbia Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh told CBC News. "They have to be on the up and up. They have to be transparent. They have to be accountable. They have to provide that information so that people can judge for themselves whether or not their police force acted appropriately. The more I look at how [the RCMP] functions, the more I see the lack of transparency and accountability."

Police agencies in the United States and elsewhere have somehow missed the purpose of the stun gun. When the weapon was designed by Taser International, it was designed as an alternative to deadly force in restraining violent suspects. Increasingly today it is used by police as a "gender equalizer." Lightweight female officers who should never have been put on the force let alone be assigned as street cops are armed with stun guns with the right to use them on any male suspect who even remotely resists them. Disabling suspects—even those who simply do not respond fast enough to orders to disperse, or disruptive elderly people whose only crime is being mentally disoriented and unresponsive—is increasingly being done with stun guns because it's more convenient and, as Cpl. Wilson in Kanloops said, "...we've got more important work to do on the street..."

Counting Dziekanski, there have been 19 stun gun-related deaths in Canada since 2001. In an analysis of 563 stun gun incidents investigated by the Canadian media from 2002 to 2005, three-fourths of the suspects were unarmed, defeating the original intent of the weapon—using nonlethal force to subdue violent suspects. The Canadian media is alarmed by the increased use of this deadly weapon by Canadian law enforcement officers on unarmed, merely unruly citizens—many of whom's only crime is being intoxicated. Media reports in the United States indicated that 180 people died in stun gun-related deaths in 2006.

The Canadian House of Commons Public Safety Committee is examining the growing use of stun guns. It plans to hear testimony from RCMP officers, customs officials and other affected people before drafting a report to Parliament. The RCMP argued that the use of stun guns saved 4,000 lives since police started using them. The spokesman for the RCMP, Troy Lightfoot, said the use of stun guns is appropriate, and enhances public safety. "And," he said, "it is one of the least injurious means that we have available to take people into police custody."

With respect to transparency, Lightfoot refused to comment why the RCMP is not providing the reports mandated by law. Other police officials maintain that the information is provided by the officers, but that the information is censored to protect the privacy of the people who had encounters with police. The long and short of it is that stun guns are potentially lethal weapons that are used by police officers to subdue nonviolent offenders and, in many cases, elderly people whose immune systems are compromised. Police officers who use stun guns on unarmed, nonbelligerent offenders who are stunned because they don't respond fast enough should be charged with assault, or fired. In the event that nonviolent, unarmed offenders die after being shot with a stun gun, the police officer must be charged with negligent homicide.

On Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007, Christmas shopper Elizabeth Beeland, a 35-year old yoga instructor in Daytona Beach, Florida was questioned by a checkout clerk at Best Buy for using what the clerk described as a "suspect" credit card. The credit card was Beeland's. Embarrassed because she thought she was being accused of using a fraudulent credit card, Beeland began screaming at the clerk. The store surveillance videos show Beeland antagonistically confronting the clerk, with arms flaying. After Beeland turned and walked away from the checkout, off-duty, uniformed Daytona police officer Claudia Wright approached the departing customer and without any sign of resistance or provocation from Beeland, used her "gender-equalizer" and shot Beeland in the abdomen with her stun gun, knocking her to the floor. Wright defended her action saying Beeland had been "verbally profane, abusive, loud and irate." Since when did loud and obnoxious become grounds for using deadly force? (Everyone—the police agencies which use them, the media that reports on the use and abuse of stun guns, the legal system and the general public—need to understand that since 337 people in the United States and Canada have died in stun gun incidents, it is potentially a lethal weapon that is used on people for crimes as minor as not moving fast enough when ordered by a police officer.)

Beeland, whose crime was cursing at a Best Buy clerk who embarrassed her, was charged with misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Daytona Beach city fathers would have been hard-pressed to make the resisting charge stick since Best Buy's surveillance video showed there was no confrontation with Wright, nor did Beeland resist. Wright, who was clearly out of her element, simply pulsed Beeland. I wonder how much Best Buy paid Beeland to settle what could have been a whopper of a lawsuit?

Furthermore, if the City of Daytona Beach was wise, they would either fire Wright or permanently put her on a desk. The American Civil Liberties Union joined the Florida fray after Daytona Beach police chief Michael Chitwood defended Wright's action. This was the first time the Daytona Beach police used a stun gun on a "subject" who was not confronting the police officer nor resisting arrest. Most certainly, if Wright is not fired, stun gun use will probably become more commonly used in Daytona Beach as a gender-equalizer.

When Milwaukee, Wisconsin armed their police force with 14 brand new Taser™ pulse weapons in March, 2004, their officers used it 105 times in the first 106 days—from March 16 to July 31—which amounts to once a day. Milwaukee police sergeant Mike Kuspa explained that "[w]hen officers have a new tool, they will use that tool more than any other tool they have on their belt as long as it fits the guidelines."

Statistics show that 96% of those shot with the stun guns were not armed and posed no deadly threat to police. Seventy percent of those struck by the pulse weapons were injured. In Milwaukee, according to Kuspa, the stun gun is an alternative to pepper spray. Yet, where Taser™ calls their pulse weapon "non-lethal," the Milwaukee police refer to it as "less-lethal" because the city can't be sure of the company's claim. "It could be lethal," he said. "May or may not."

Few restrictions in the use—or abuse—of stun guns by police officers are imposed on them by their respective municipal, county or State governments according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In their state-by-state investigation of stun gun abuse, the ACLU did an exhaustive study of how police departments regulate the use of stun guns, and the frequency in which victims of stun gun abuse die at the hands of police officers for "crimes" as minor as making chubby cops chase them. When the death rate from what should have been non-lethal stun gun incidents—and the potential for lawsuits for wrongful death—began to rise throughout the nation, county coroners devised the medical diagnosis of "excited delirium" to explain how otherwise apparently healthy people could die from a non-lethal electrical charge. Since many of those who are stunned are drug abusers, many die from complications due to pharmacological intoxication and electrical shock. Some coroners attribute stun gun deaths to positional, or postural, asphyxia. Death results when the subject collapses into a breathing restrictive position—usually when the subject falls in a face-down position. Coroners, who realize the financial liability to their counties if death is attributed to electrical shock are reluctant to inscribe those words on the death certificates of those who succumb after being pulsed with a stun gun.

In Nov., 1993 47-year old James Borden was arrested by Monroe County, Indiana sheriff's deputies when they found him wandering aimlessly in a drug-induced stupor. Borden was transported to the county lockup without incident. He died in the jail because he was "dry-stunned in the buttocks" by a jailer because, he said, "...I asked Borden to lift up his foot to remove his shorts, but he was being combative and refused. I dry-stunned him in the lower abdomen. We got [him] to the booking area. Borden was still combative and uncooperative. I dry-stunned [him] in the buttocks." After the second the jolt, the jailer noticed that Borden was no longer responsive, and his face was discolored. He was dead. His capital offense? Being on drugs and not stripping fast enough to suit the jailer. The coroner listed a multiple choice cause of death: heart attack due to an enlarged heart, pharmacological intoxication, and electrical shock. The jailer was charged with two counts of felony battery and battery while armed with a deadly weapon.

When 48-year old Horace Owen broke into the Fort Lauderdale home of MacArthur Hodges on June 12, 2005, he was high on cocaine and hallucinating. Owen was screaming that someone was trying to kill him. Hodges called the Broward County Sheriff's Department to get the intruder out of his house. Deputies pulsed Owen. He collapsed. He was pronounced dead an hour later at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. Ignoring the electrical charge that cause the heart arrhythmia, the coroner ruled that Owen's death resulted from pharmacological intoxication—due to a cocaine overdose. His crime? Breaking into someone's home because he thought his life was in danger. It was—at the hands of Broward County Sheriff's deputies.

Mental patients like drug addicts use chemical mood enhancers that compromise heart rhythm when electrical shock is introduced. On Jan. 12, 2005 the parents of 30-year old Greg Saulsbury called 911 asking for help with their son who was mentally ill. They were trying to calm him down. Instead of paramedics, Pacifica, California police arrived a few minutes later. The Saulsbury's assured the police their son had calmed down and they did not need help. Officers attempted to handcuff Saulsbury and take him into custody. He fought back. Police pulsed him several times. Saulsbury cried out to his father for help. When the elder Saulsbury tried to help his son, police pulsed him as well. As police dragged the father from the room, 30-year old Greg Saulsbury collapsed and died.

Two days before Christmas in 2004 Sacramento, California mental hospital patient Ronnie Pino, 31 shattered a glass door at the mental facility. Police were called. During the struggle to take him into custody, Pino was subdued twice with a stun gun. He died in the medical ward of the county jail.

Patrick Fleming, 35, of Metairie, Louisiana had been arrested on drug charges several times. On Dec. 4, 2004 police sought to arrest him on a warrant of criminal family neglect (deserting a spouse and children and rendering them destitute). Police shocked him once as they attempted to cuff him. When he was booked, he became combative again. He was stunned again. It appears he was not given medical attention. He died in his cell the next day.

The parents of Ricardo Zaragoza, 40, of Elk Grove, California could not get their son to go to the hospital for scheduled mental health exam. Zaragoza was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. While he was taking his medications, he had not eaten in several days. When he refused to go to the hospital, his parents called 911 on Nov. 8, 2004. Sacramento sheriff's deputies arrived at the home. Zaragoza was in his bedroom and refused to come out. Deputies entered the bedroom and sprayed him with pepper spray and shocked him twice with a stun gun. Zaragoza stopped breathing and was pronounced dead. Cardiologist Dr. Kathy Glalter, a UC Davis Medical Center electrophysiologist who specializes in sudden death heart rhythm orders was at a loss to explain not only Zaragpza's death but that of Gordon Rauch as well. Both men were diagnosed with mental illness. Both were taking medications. Both were shocked with stun guns. And both died as a result of the electrical shock. Glaltier said that much more research is needed to definitively show the effect of stun guns on people taking prescription medications or illegal drugs, or whether those with preexisting heart conditions are more at risk of sudden death. Dah.

Like Zaragoza, Rauch met his death at the hands of the Sacramento sheriff's department. His appointment with the grim reaper took place on Aug. 17, 2003. Rauch's father called the police and said his son, who was medicated with psychotropic drugs, had threatened to kill him. Police said Rauch charged them when they attempted to take him into custody. Two officers shot him with their stun guns simultaneously. Rauch fell to the floor. Officers said he "went limp" when they cuffed him. He died about an hour later.

Neighbors called Miami-Dade police on Sept. 20, 2004 to report that 40-year old John Merkle, a lawyer with a serious drug problem was running through the backyards of the neighborhood with a big stick, acting erratically. Police found him in an abandoned home beating the walls and smashing the windows with the stick. Ordered to drop the stick, Merkle did so. But, according to police, when they attempted to take him into custody, he fought back. They shot him with a stun gun. Police said Merkle was feverish and asked to lay down. Police ordered him to lay on his stomach. Merkle stopped breathing. Police said he was high on cocaine. The coroner ruled Merkle's death was caused by excited delirium associated with cocaine use.

Experienced police officers are trained to recognize drug intoxication. With police departments around the country seeing an influx of sudden death due to "suspects" who experience cardiac arrest triggered by cocaine or methamphetamine intoxication it would seem, by this time, police officers would have an inkling that known addicts were likely candidates for cardiac arrest if shocked multiple times with a stun gun. It would seem the risk of killing suspects who [a] do not pose a deadly threat to law enforcement officers who are [b] attempting to arrest them for misdemeanor offenses whose penalty would likely be a fine or a weekend in jail. When police officers abuse the authority with which they are entrusted, they need to be held accountable. Likewise, when a coroner or medical examiner fabricates causes of death to protect the police or the purse of the county, that coroner or medical examiner needs to lose his or her medical license and face appropriate charges.

To explain how otherwise healthy people could suddenly collapse and die after being shocked several times with long bursts from a stun gun, medical examiners coined the term "excited delirium" to explain sudden death from electro-muscular disruption. Unfortunately, "excited delirium" is not a clinical term nor does it describe a recognized medical condition. It's a made-up phrase for a made-up condition that exists only to insulate law enforcement agencies from allegations of excessive force, and to attempt to absolve them of blame for killing subjects who, 99 times out of a hundred committed minor misdemeanors that would result in fines and not imprisonment. When police officers use deadly force to subdue US citizens—even lowlife US citizens—over trivial matters, then those police officers must be forced to answer for the deaths caused by those incidents. Police officers cannot be allowed to use deadly force unless their lives are threatened by equal deadly force.

Yet we are asked to accept, as rational, police officers using weapons only slightly less lethal than firearms, to subdue subjects whose only crime might be disrespecting them? Or, a college senior who refuses to surrender a microphone at a John Kerry Rally at the University of Florida? Or a 15-year old autistic boy who runs across four lanes of traffic, forcing a couple of overweight cops to chase him? Or, a woman whose only crime was knocking over a cardboard floor display rack in a Hallmark store?

On Nov. 26, 2005 Tracy Rene Shippy went to a Hallmark Gold Crown store in Fort Myers, Florida and asked store employees to call the police because she had just been in a fight. Before the cops arrived, Shippy knocked over the display rack. Employees called the police again and reported that an unruly customer was agitated and knocking over displays. It appears that Shippy may have been suffering from cocaine toxicity and, if so, she very likely simply stumbled into the display. When police arrived, one officer tackled Shippy and handcuffed her. That agitated Shippy even more. Sgt. Joseph More of the Lee County Sheriff's Dept. shot her with a stun gun. Instead of falling with flaying arms, Shippy became even more agitated and began kicking the two deputies who were dragging her to the police cruiser. More shot her with the stun gun at least one more time. Each burst was reportedly longer than the one before it bcause they did not seem to have any affect on Shippy. Finally, Shippy began foaming at the mouth. She was suffering from cardiac distress. There is no police transcript available that details how many times Shippy was shocked. Remember also, that throughout this ordeal, Shippy's hands were handcuffed behind her.

Police records show that paramedics were called at 7:08 p.m. Fifteen minutes later her face turned blue. She was unresponsive. She was pronounced dead at the Southwest Florida Regional Medical Center shortly after 8 p.m. Her death certificate indicates she died from "excited delirium." Kicking over a cardboard display rack at a Hallmark Gold Crown store turned out to be a capital offense for Tracy Rene Shippy. At no time were the lives of the Lee County sheriff's deputies threatened by the handcuffed woman.

If you listen to law enforcement officials or their public relations spinmeisters they will assure you that stun guns are used only on violent offenders, or on those who threaten cops with physical violence. However, the reality doesn't match the rhetoric. The youngest person on record disabled by a stun gun was a 6-year old Miami boy who was threatening to cut himself with a piece of glass. In another incident with a minor child, a police officer was physically forced to chase down a 12-year old who was attempting to skip school. To teach her a lesson the cop, who chased her in a foot race, brought her to her knees with a stun gun. Once again, the 12-year old posed no threat to the police officer. He used the stun gun on her not to defuse a volatile, life-threatening situation, he did it because he was mad. Both incidents show an abuse of force. Both police officers should have been terminated.

A Rock Hill, South Carolina police officer used a stun gun to subdue a 75-year old woman whose only crime was becoming distraught when asked to leave a nursing home after getting upset because she couldn't find the room of a sick friend. In April, 2005 a Minnesota man died after local police shot him with a stun gun because he refused to stop shouting in the middle of the street. A Riviera Beach, California police officer used a stun gun on a derelict he found sleeping on a park bench. Awakened abruptly, the homeless man cursed at the officer and refused to let the cop search him for "contraband." The derelict died. Homelessness is now a capital offense in Riviera Beach. And, about the same time at the Houston County Jail in Georgia, a man died after being jolted three times with a stun gun. His crime? He refused to pay a $700 fine.

Pulse technology energy weapons (stun guns) are the most abused weapons used by America's local, county and State law enforcement agencies. It is time those agencies were held accountable for those abuses. As the rising death toll for the use of pulse technology affirms, stun guns do not represent the use of "non-lethal" force. Rather, as defined by the Milwaukee police department, stuns guns are merely "less-lethal" than firearms. Yet, they are used to subdue people for the most minor infractions of the law.

Let's suppose for a moment that the Minnesota man who died after being pulsed with a stun gun because he was standing in the middle of the street shouting at drivers and pedestrians, was shot with the officer's 9mm handgun. What would happen to the cop? He would have been charged with wrongful death. Today, he would be just another inmate in a correctional facility. Why should those who "accidentally" kill a citizen with a "less-lethal" weapon be excused? Because every State that uses pulse technology energy weapons (stun guns) defines their use as a non-lethal use of force, arguing that if they are used properly, stun guns are safe law enforcement tools, and when death occurs it's merely a freak accident.

Fifty-six year old, wheel chair-bound schizophrenic Emily Marie Delafield of Green Cove Springs, Florida would disagree that stun guns are safe if she was still alive. Police were called to settle a family spat on April 24, 2006. When Green Cove Springs police arrived, Delafield was holding a hammer and, according to the two officers, James Acres and Barbara Luedtke, a kitchen knife. They ordered her to drop her weapons. She refused. The police were in no danger from the 56-woman even though Luedtke said it appeared that Delafield was going to throw the knife at them. Delafield's medical problems severely limited her range of motion so, while she may have been able to raise her arm, it was unlikely she could have thrown the knife. Over the past couple of years police had been to her home a total of 28-times. Everyone in the Green Cove Springs police department knew, or knew of, Delafield. She lived with an oxygen tank which was attached to her motorized wheel chair. This alone should have told the officers she was "at risk," and being pulsed just one time could have had fatal consequences. Only Officer Luedtke, using the female officers "weapon of choice"—the gender equalizer—pulsed her nine times. Acre pulsed her once. Fifty thousand volts coursed through her body for 121 seconds. She died. The State of Florida ruled Delafield's death a homicide. The prosecutor decided it was a justified homicide because Delafield had two weapons. Regardless what the State's attorney said, Delafield's death was not justified since the officers should have had every expectation that pulsing her ten times for 121 seconds would result in her death. Three months after Delafield's death the medical examiner had still not issued a cause of death, or produced a death certificate for Emily Marie Delafield.

On June 7, 2005 47-year old Russell Walker died after being pulsed three times by Las Vegas police. Police were summoned to a local hotel around 8 p.m. where Walker was causing a disturbance. Officers pulsed him with a stun gun when he resisted their attempt to handcuff him. After he was handcuffed, Walker began struggling again. Again, they stunned him. Still struggling he was shocked a third time. He stopped breathing. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 9 p.m. There is no way Vegas police were threatened with "deadly force" from Walker since two of the three jolts he received from the stun gun came after he was handcuffed. Walker continued to struggle only because police were using unnecessary force to restrain him. The coroner ruled that Walker died from a heart arrhythmia during restraint procedure." In reality, Walker died because police used deadly force where it should not have been an option since Walker had already been restrained and, handcuffed, posed no threat to police.

Incidents like these, where handcuffed suspects are shot with stun guns, are becoming so numerous that it's impossible to keep track of them. In a tragic incident in Madera, California, police officer Marcie Noriega was one of nine officers who responded to a disturbance at an apartment complex on Oct. 27, 2002. Among those arrested was Madera Torres. Torres was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police vehicle where he tried to kick out the vehicle windows. In an attempt to subdue the handcuffed prisoner, Officer Noriega decided to use her "gender equalizer. " She mistakenly drew her 40-caliber Glock instead of her Taser. Noriega fired one slug into Torres' chest and killed him. The prosecutor declined to indict her. Because there was no "intent of criminal negligence" or "aggravation," he said he probably would not be able to get a conviction. Yet "civilians" whose "non-criminal intent" negligence in car accidents results in the death of others are not only charged with second or third degree manslaughter for the deaths they caused, they are almost always convicted.

Every day police officers all across the United States face growing danger while carrying out their duties. Over 18 thousand law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty in the United States since States began to keep a public record of those deaths. Two hundred-sixteen of them were women. Last year, the names of 145 peace officers were added to the roster of those who gave their lives in the line of duty. Being a police officer in an era of increasing lawlessness in America as druglords import armies of thugs to protect their turf is almost as dangerous as being a soldier or Marine in a war zone. The stress police officers face is unlike the stress 9-to-5er or factory shift workers face in their daily routine. They are forced to make split-second decisions that affect lives. Sometimes those decisions are wrong and people die. That was the case with Marcie Noriega and Madera Torres. Torres was drunk and belligerent. He paid for his stupidity with his life. The city of Madera and the State of California decided not to prosecute Noriega. They were wrong. The incident was a tragic accident. Noriega pulled the wrong trigger on the wrong weapon and a man who did not deserve to die for trying to kick out the side window on a police cruiser died.

Torres is dead because Noriega acted irresponsible. Had Noriega pulled her Taser and not her Glock and subdued the already handcuffed and subdued Torres with less than lethal force, she should have still faced charges for pulsing a handcuffed subject who was in custody and could not subject her or anyone else to physical injury.

Police officers are not granted the broad license to maim or kill subjects or suspects who are not attempting to use equivalent force against them. The US Commission on Civil Rights states that "...in diffusing situations, apprehending alleged criminals and protecting themselves and others, police officers are legally entitled to use all appropriate means, including force." First, appropriate force can be used to apprehend alleged criminals and/or to protect themselves and others from the threat posed by the subject, suspect or wrongdoer. Once the subject is apprehended, handcuffed and in custody, the law assumes that the threat to life and limb is abated. The use of what was, minutes before, appropriate force then becomes excessive, unreasonable, and not necessary to take custody of the alleged wrongdoer.

Left in the air during the act of apprehension is just how much force is "reasonable and necessary." Courts in different jurisdictions define "reasonable and necessary" differently, thus the broad yardstick in what is, or is not, allowed under the law is too elastic. Clearly, the unnecessary use of force is the application of force where there is no justification for its use. The excessive use of force is the application of more force than required when some force is needed. Pulsing a subject with a 50 thousand volt jolt whose only "crime" is not moving fast enough to suit a police officer is excessive force. In most jurisdictions in the United States, once a subject is subdued and handcuffed, he or she is no longer construed to pose a threat to the officer or to others. To jolt them with a stun gun after they are handcuffed and physically in custody is, by definition, the use of excessive force.

Police officers who use excessive force, regardless how volatile the communities in which they live and work, must be prepared to face criminal charges for their conduct when they succumb to the use of excessive or abusive force, particularly when that abusive force causes the loss of life using law enforcement tools that are supposed to be "less than lethal." There should be a common sense rule in play for law enforcement agencies that says people most likely to suffer a sudden death cardiac event are those under the influence of either illegal drugs or legal prescription pharmaceuticals and therefore subject to cardiac arrest. And even more obviously at risk for sudden death cardiac events are those who are confined to a wheel chair, using oxygen, or who are just plain old and infirm. Also at extreme risk are children and adolescents. Common sense dictates that when groups at high risk for sudden death cardiac events are jolted with high voltage electrical charges death is very likely going to result. When police officers opt to use what has become the most convenient disabling devise regardless of the consequences, they need to be held accountable when at risk people die.

 

Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
All rights reserved
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