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Tasers (2000-2003)

School official asks police to stop Tasers

MIAMI, FL, Nov. 20, 2004 (UPI) -- The superintendent of Miami-Dade Schools, where police Taser-gunned a 6-year-old first-grader, has asked police to stop using stun guns against children.

Superintendent Rudy Crew made the request in a letter to the police chief, the Miami Herald reported Saturday. His letter followed an incident in October when a Miami-Dade officer zapped a 6-year-old first-grader at Kelsey Pharr Elementary School, who was wielding a piece of glass in a school office.

"The Pharr student was agitated and injured," Crew wrote in his letter. "However, police officers have dealt with other children in this condition without resorting to a Taser."

In a second incident, an unarmed 12-year-old who was playing hooky was felled by an officer using a Taser Nov. 5.

Crew asked that the department "refrain from deploying or discharging Tasers against elementary school students in Miami-Dade Public County Schools."

Stunning offers…

You think you get unsolicited sales calls. Imagine having your name and newfound millions plastered all over business bibles like the Wall Street Journal.

Phil Smith, chairman of Scottsdale stun-gun maker Taser International Inc., got a taste of the telemarketing fallout this week when word spread of his $27 million windfall from Taser stock sales.

The day the news appeared in the Journal, Smith received about 100 calls. More followed the next day when national wire services picked up the story. The pitches took two forms: help us manage your money or, from charities, please share the wealth.

"You get the whole gamut," Smith said. "That's one of the disadvantages of being a public company.

Lawyer Targets Taser Policies with 10 Lawsuits
Lawyer: Police Agencies' Policies Allow for Overuse of Tasers

ORLANDO, FL --A local attorney is filing a series of lawsuits against law enforcement agencies over Tasers.

Lawyer Wants Police To Reexamine Taser Policies

It's the biggest legal challenge to date against the controversial police weapon, WESH NewsChannel 2 reported.

An Orlando attorney is going to file 10 lawsuits on behalf of people who've been hit with Tasers. The lawsuits will target five local law enforcement agencies, including the Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff's Department, the Osceola County Sheriff's Department, the Melbourne Police Department and the Apopka Police Department.

The lawyer said local police agencies' policies allowed for the overuse of Tasers by officers. He argues that his clients have suffered permanent physical and psychological injuries because of the excessive force.

On Oct. 2, while Apopka police say John Henderson was resisting arrest with violence, he was hit repeatedly with a police Taser. As a result, Henderson says he walks with a limp, has numbness in his fingers and memory loss. He denies resisting arrest.

Henderson is one of 10 plaintiffs, ranging in age from 14 to 60, who are planning to sue five Central Florida departments for misuse of the police Taser.

In the coming weeks, attorney Tom Luka will be filing those 10 suits because he says local agencies have failed to set clear guidelines on what qualifies as excessive Taser force.

The Taser's manufacturer denies that their weapon causes permanent injury or death.

"What we do know ... is that Tasers save lives every day. We have not lost or settled a civil suit in the company's 11-year history," a spokesman said.

Luka said these suits are not against the manufacturer.

The Orlando Police Department has already restricted the use of the Taser to when a person is actively resisting arrest. For the last six months, a committee organized by the Orange County Sheriff's department has been studying its Taser policy. But local agencies still say the Taser is safe.

When a Taser is fired, a compressed gas canister fires two probes connected by wires that can be 20 feet long. When the probes hit a person, a high voltage current jolts through the nervous system, overwhelming the signals that control muscle movement. That leaves the person temporarily immobilized. The probes can go through 2 inches of clothing.

The weapons are effective. According to Taser International, the company that makes the most common Taser, 86 percent of the time it only takes one shot to subdue a suspect. The overall success rate for stopping a person with a Taser is 94 percent, according to the company.

Also, drugs or alcohol do not affect a Taser's impact.

On a related note, police in Miami-Dade County say they're reviewing their Taser policy after the stun gun was used on two minors. In one case, police say a 6-year-old boy was threatening to harm himself with broken glass. In the other, an officer is facing disciplinary action for using a Taser on a 12-year-old girl who had allegedly been drinking and was skipping class.

Officer zaps jail inmate

A detention officer at the Moffat County Jail used a Taser gun on an inmate early Thursday morning for disorderly conduct, Moffat County Sheriff officials said.

The incident occurred at about 9 a.m. after the inmate allegedly threatened to assault a detention officer and three times refused to enter a lockdown chamber, Sgt. Ken Uecker said.

"This could have turned into a worse situation," he said. "In order to stop a violent situation, we had to tase him. We had troubles with the inmate the night before."

The male inmate, whom officials wouldn't identify, is a prisoner being held at the county jail and on a waiting list to be transferred to the Colorado Department of Corrections, Uecker said.

The jail was filled Thursday with 75 inmates, Uecker said, about half of whom are prisoners who later will be transferred to DOC as beds there become available. Moffat County Jail has 88 beds.

Thursday's incident marks the third time detention officers have used a Taser on an inmate.

The department purchased four of the stun guns last year that send a 50,000-volt burst of electricity through a victim for five seconds.

The result of being zapped --or merely the threat of it -- usually can bring the most combative person into compliance, jail officials have said.

Staffing was short one officer at the jail Thursday, Uecker said. Two detention officers worked the jail's pods as an administrative official staffed the master control room, Uecker said.

It would have taken two or three officers to subdue the inmate without the use of the Taser, he said.

"Any one of our officers could have been hurt," Uecker said. "(Without a Taser), you're looking at physically trying to take control of the situation."

Lawyer pushing stun-gun scrutiny
Information lacking on extent of use and by whom, rights advocate says

The use of controversial Taser stun guns by police forces across the country should be monitored more closely by the federal government, a civil rights lawyer said yesterday.

"What is disturbing is, it's not clear there are any kind of provincial or national regulations that regulate their usage and frequency of usage," Julian Falconer said. "Right now there is an utter lack of information concerning the frequency of usage of Tasers and who is using them. There has to be far greater transparency in their usage."

The debate over the use of Taser guns resurfaced after 29-year-old boxer Jerry Knight died on the weekend when police used one of the stun guns during a violent confrontation at a Mississauga motel.

Law-enforcement officials say the guns -- which deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity to their targets, causing temporary loss of muscle control -- offer a safer and more effective alternative to the use of deadly force or pepper spray and batons.

But human-rights and civil-liberties groups argue that the weapons are being overused and that their safety is questionable.

The M26 Taser gun has been approved for use by several municipal police forces across Canada -- including those in Windsor, Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto and London.

Mr. Falconer, who co-chaired a 2001 conference on alternatives to the use of lethal force by municipal police departments, said it is extremely difficult to determine how many Tasers are out there, who is using them and the requirements officers must meet to use the "less-than-lethal" stun guns.

In Ontario, for example, where the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services approved Taser guns for specially trained emergency response officers and hostage-rescue teams, ministry officials said they do not keep track of the number of Taser guns across the province or the frequency of use.

"They buy them. They look after them. We don't have anything to do with them. All we do is approve them," ministry spokesman Bruce O'Neill said yesterday. "We give them the guidelines, and as long as they fall under the guidelines, it's up to them."

In February, Monte Kwinter, Minister of Community Safety, expanded the use of Tasers to include "front-line supervisors" -- the officers who secure an area before emergency tactical units arrive on scene.

Mr. Kwinter also approved a six-month pilot of a smaller and more expensive version of the Taser for use by Toronto Police.

The battery-operated X26 model is 60 per cent smaller than the M26 and costs twice as much, at about $1,000.

The study is expected to be completed in September.

Taser International, the Arizona-based company that manufactures the guns, said the X26 delivers a more focused pulse that results in increased muscle contractions. However, it is less powerful than the M26.

A company spokesman also said a microchip contained in the X26 model will track when the gun is fired and for what duration.

Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser International, said yesterday the company "stands by the safety of its products 100 per cent."

He likened being shot with a Taser gun to "a funny bone that's working 18 times per second from head-to-toe" but added that the effects are only temporary.

2 men dead after run-ins with B.C. police

VANCOUVER - Two men died in separate altercations with police in British Columbia on Sunday.

The first man died in Saanich, north of Victoria, on Sunday morning. A police officer shot the 33-year-old man to death near an elementary school playground as children and churchgoers watched.

The man's wife had called for help earlier, saying her husband was trying to set their house on fire and needed medical attention.

He then became involved in "altercations" with police and paramedics that ended in an officer firing at him, said a Saanich police spokesperson.

Police at the scene had called for a Taser gun in an effort to subdue the man, but it hadn't arrived yet.

In a separate incident in Vancouver the same day, a man fell more than eight metres to his death as a police officer tried to restrain him on a busy bridge.

Police had signalled him to pull over after they spotted him driving a car with no licence plates. Instead, he sped up and drove the wrong way onto a major bridge, colliding with several cars before coming to a stop.

The driver then jumped from the vehicle and ran away, leaving a female passenger behind in the car.

When an officer caught up with him and grabbed him, he lunged toward the side of the bridge and fell over it. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Man Suffers Heart Attack after being Subdued by Minneapolis Police

A 39-year-old man is hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a heart attack shortly after Minneapolis police used an electronic stun gun to subdue him.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is investigating and the officers who used the stun gun have been placed on administrative leave. Their names have not been released.

Police say a team from the Minneapolis Police Department's Critical Incident Team went to the Andrews Residence group home late Friday afternoon after staffers reported that the man was behaving violently and threatening the safety of other residents.

When officers couldn't restrain the man, they jolted him with an electric stun gun to bring him under control.

Police said the man went into cardiac arrest as officers prepared to take him out of the home.

Saskatoon City police add Tasers to weapons arsenal

Saskatoon police officers are preparing to add stun guns to their arsenal, as well as semi-automatic firearms aimed at better equipping them for situations like the Columbine High School shooting.

Both the non-lethal Taser stun guns and single-shot carbines are scheduled to become standard equipment in patrol cars by 2006.

Police will continue to carry Glock .40-calibre pistols in their holsters.

City administration has budgeted $62,000 to buy 34 Tasers for police in 2005 and $92,000 to buy an equal number of single-shot weapons to be mounted in cars in 2006.

"The (Taser) technology that's out there is very effective as long as it's deployed properly," said Saskatoon Police Service spokesperson Insp. Lorne Constantinoff.

City police are currently equipped with a baton, pepper spray and firearm. Spray doesn't work on everyone and requires proximity of no further than two metres.

The Taser has a range of six metres.

An officer aims it like a firearm, firing two hooks with a single shot. The hooks, connected to the Taser by a thin wire, dig into the skin of the human target and discharge a 50,000-volt current, causing the person to lose muscle control.

The shock leaves the person feeling dazed for a few minutes, but police say there are no long-term effects.

The decision of when to use a Taser is a judgment call, Constantinoff said, but generally it's appropriate when lethal force isn't warranted and other measures are ineffective or unsafe.

For example, an officer might fire a Taser at a subject threatening him or her with a knife, he said.

The Taser should not be used on a subject who's armed with a gun, because the shock causes muscles to jerk.

"Any tool when it comes to the use of force, to give the officer another option other than lethal force is a good tool," said city police association vice-president Dave Haye.

The police service already owns two Tasers, stored by emergency response team members, who haven't put them to use other than for training.

Saskatoon police stepped up their study of Tasers at the prompting of a coroner's jury looking into the 2001 death of Keldon McMillan. Police shot McMillan in a field south of Wakaw after a high-speed chase and the man's threats to shoot officers.

City police have since become involved in no shootings.

There has been only one firearm shooting by Saskatchewan RCMP officers in the three years since they began carrying Tasers, but shootings are rare anyway, said RCMP spokesperson Heather Russell.

Almost one-third of Saskatchewan RCMP officers are trained to use Tasers, although there are only 60 in use. The RCMP emergency response team and riot squad use half of them, with the remainder spread around busy detachments like Saskatoon, Regina, Battlefords and Yorkton.

RCMP use Tasers to subdue suspects or prisoners in cell blocks or aircraft, Russell said.

City police are also anticipating new car-mounted firearms. Currently, marked city police cars are equipped with pump-action shotguns that fire a spray of pellets. The guns are 20 years old and not ideal for reacting to situations like the 1999 Columbine shooting in Colorado, where two high school students killed 12 classmates and a teacher in a shooting rampage.

In that type of incident, police want to target just the threat, not innocent people nearby who could be hit by the pellet spray.

The new firearm will still look like and function like a rifle, but it will be semi-automatic, eliminating the step of pumping the weapon slide between shots, and fire single shots.

"It would be more surgical," Constantinoff said.

New Tasers for Police

ROCHESTER, MN, Nov. 27 - A new version of the taser is now in the hands of Rochester police officers. Those new tasers have been picked up by the department to prevent any mix-ups between them and actual handguns. As you might recall several months ago a police officer shot a Rochester man. Investigators ruled the shooting accidental as the officer thought he was using a taser gun. NewsCenter's Asia Zmuda filed this report.

Captain Jim Pittenger says the new taser guns are yellow and have a slightly different grip from the old ones and hopefully they will be easier to distinguish in an emergency situation.

A while back Chief Roger Peterson explained the old tasers look, and feel much like the handguns.

He said that's how Christofar Atak ended up getting shot in his back on Labor Day.

Officers were trying to subdue him outside of Brandywine Apartments in northwest Rochester when one officer pulled the gun thinking it was the taser.

Atak was in the hospital for several weeks after the shooting. As far as policy changes--Captain Pittenger says officers will carry the tasers on the opposite side of the body from where the handgun is.

Officer who killed teen didn't hear call to use Taser
Turney tells investigator he didn't hear shouts

DENVER -- The police officer who shot and killed a mentally disabled teenager last month reportedly told investigators he didn't hear anyone telling him to use a Taser stun gun to disable the boy.

That contradicts the account given to police by Paul Childs' mother and sister. The relatives told police that other officers were yelling at Officer James Turney to, "Tase him, tase him," before he fired four shots at the 15-year-old.

Childs was shot in the front doorway of his house on July 5 after his sister called 911 to report that he was threatening his mother with a knife. Turney was placed on leave with pay pending the outcome of a police inquiry.

Transcripts of the police interviews were expected to be given to Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter, who will determine whether any laws were broken.

According to the documents obtained by The Denver Post, Turney said he had his left foot on the porch and his right foot on the ground, about 5 to 7 feet from Childs, who was in the doorway.

Turney said he told Childs to drop the knife three to five times but the teen did not respond. He estimated that he fired his weapon about three to four seconds after ordering Childs to drop the knife.

"Uh, we told him to drop the knife. An' at that point he started to advance with the knife in his hand," Turney told Lt. James Haney of the Crimes Against Persons Bureau, according to the transcript of the interview.

Turney said that Childs had taken three to five short, choppy steps toward the door.

Turney said he didn't retreat because he is not required to do so. He also said he was worried that, since he had one foot on the porch, he might have fallen on his back and been vulnerable to attack if he backed up.

Turney's lawyer, Doug Jewell, who was present during the interview, declined comment.

Helen Childs told police that her son wasn't acting like himself on the day of the shooting and that he had torn his room apart the night before.

The week of the shooting he had been treated at the adolescent psychiatric unit at Children's Hospital after suffering a seizure on a bus when he failed to take medication to prevent seizures and treat attention deficit disorder.

Helen Childs told police that he had never threatened anyone with a knife before. She said her son just stood over her with an old, dull knife but wasn't pointing it at her.

She said police arrived about two minutes after her daughter's 911 call and ordered everyone out of the house.

She recalled four officers with their guns drawn on her porch, one with his foot in the door and one yelling for a Taser gun to be used. She said she saw the red laser lights for aiming the weapons.

The interviews also reveal that Turney and Childs had met before, as 7NEWS Investigates first reported.

A month and a half before the shooting, Turney said he and his partner attempted to pat down Childs while investigating an attempted bicycle theft.

Childs was handcuffed after he tried to pull away. Turney and his partner drove Childs home to his mother, who reportedly told police she had trouble raising her son.

Turney said he recognized Childs on the day of the shooting as the teen he had returned to his mother.

It is still not known if Turney knew that Childs was mentally disabled.