Tasers Do Not Always Equal Non-Lethal Force

Complaints about the use of deadly force by law enforcement led to a revolution in halting suspects.  In addition to a firearm, most police forces across the country require officers to carry a Taser.  Now there is an outcry to review Taser policy after a number of recent deaths have been plastered across the news.

Stun guns

Stun guns are devices that conduct energy through contact points to emit electricity to shock an individual to stop them.  Stun guns are handheld with two contact points that emit the electricity.  The conducted electricity devices used by law enforcement across the country and around the world are still held like a gun, but the two contact points are attached to wires that extend the reach of this weapon.  The Taser Company manufactures the most common brand of this type of weapon.  “Taser, a brand name so ubiquitous it has become a verb, owns some 99 percent of the U.S. market for the type of weapon generically called a conductive energy device, whose aim is to subdue an uncontrollable suspect by shocking the muscles, making them collapse.”

Recent deaths

On August 6, 2013, 18-year-old Israel Hernandez-Llach was Tasered by a Miami Beach police officer for graffiti and died.  Hernandez’ parents have filed suit against the police department for excessive use of force.

On September 3, 2013, an unidentified man in New Britain, Connecticut was Tasered by police after barricading himself in an apartment.  The police reported, “the man experienced a medical condition that led to his death.”

On September 3, 2013, Pinecrest police were called to an altercation and Tasered 43-year-old Norman Oosterbroek.  He was reported dead at the hospital.  Oosterbroek, a well-known bodyguard for celebrities, assaulted a neighbor triggering the call for police.  According to police, “Oosterbroek became physically aggressive with officers when they attempted to take him into custody and ignored warnings to stop. In order to stop the violence, he was shocked with a Taser.”

Advocacy efforts

Amnesty International states in its 2013 Year in Review that “at least 42 people across 20 states dies after being struck by police Tasers [in 2012], bringing the total number of such deaths since 2001 to 540.  Tasers have been listed as a cause or contributory factor in more than 60 deaths.  Most of those who died after being struck with a Taser were not armed and did not appear to pose a serious threat when the Taser was deployed.”

Currently each jurisdiction establishes their own policies on training to use and use of Tasers.  The Connecticut ACLU is lobbying for new state legislation to standardize Taser training.  There are also other efforts to standardize training and use guidelines of Tasers at a national level.

These efforts look at a variety of studies that say Taser electrical output causes such a disruption to an individual’s internal electrical field that the heart races and in turn can cause a heart attack.  Taser provides a number of studies that contradict the heart attack argument, yet the company issued updated training instructions not to aim at a suspect’s chest when firing a Taser.

If you have suffered injury from being Tasered, you may want to have your case assessed by our attorneys to determine if your personal injury is compensable.

The attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. will provide a free, no obligation consultation at our offices in Dade, Broward or Monroe County. If you are unable to travel, we can see you at your home, hospital, or other location which is convenient for you.  Call us at (305) 653-5555 or contact us to schedule your free consultation today.