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Taser Guns Used By Police Can Seriously Harm or Kill People – Police Brutality

Taser Guns Used By Police Can Seriously Harm or Kill People – Police Brutality


George Floyd’s death in May 2020 reminded everyone that police brutality must stop, and proper respect must be regularly shown to blacks and all other citizens. Far too often, police officers use guns, tasers, rubber bullets and tear gas when better options are available. Law enforcement must remember that tasers are only supposed to be used to give them a little added time to bring suspects under better control – and never to negligently harm or torment them.

What follows is a closer look at the basic way a taser gun should work, situations when tasers were used negligently and specific times when tasers should never be used. There is also a brief review of statistics indicating that blacks are among those who suffer the largest number of taser injuries and deaths.

How taser guns work when used properly

Tasers are shaped like small guns and are supposed to be fired in the direction of a person who is either resisting arrest or just failing to cooperate with police. These “guns” are designed to fire two barbed darts at a person that should deliver a “paralyzing electrical charge.” They can also be pressed right up against a person’s body in what is sometimes called a “drive stun” mode. That latter type of use almost always inflicts severe or intense pain.

A Bronx teenager suffered severe facial damage after the police used a taser

Jahmel Leach, a 16-year-old black youth, was seriously harmed on June 1, 2020, when police used a taser on him — causing facial fractures. The cops had decided that Leach was the one who poured some type of liquid on a pile of trash in the middle of a Bronx road, causing it to catch on fire. Jahmel tried to tell them that he had not started the fire and had just been walking in the area on his way home.

Sadly, the police officers who stopped the youth did not believe him and repeatedly used a taser on him. The photo that appears within the accompanying CNN article is a bit hard to view. The young man’s jaw was also damaged. No human being should ever have a taser pointed at his or her face, this is clear police excessive force.

Taser guns were negligently used against two students during the 2020 Atlanta riots

Two young college students, Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young, ventured out to pick up some food on May 30, 2020, during protests and demonstrations. While caught in traffic, the two young black men were threatened by a police baton beating against the driver’s window and another officer using a taser against Pilgrim on the passenger side.

A third police officer then used a taser on Young while the officers dragged the two black students out of their car. Both young men said they took no part in the riots. Police body-cams captured many of these activities. Mr. Young suffered so much serious harm that he had to obtain stitches at a local hospital. Five of the six officers who became involved in this incident were charged with using excessive force and four of them were fired.

A tragic 2017 death that answers the question:  Can taser guns kill people?   

A recent Reuter’s article describes what happened after a 58-year-old man named Eurie Martin, (who was battling schizophrenia), was repeatedly hit by tasers. Prior to his encounter with police, Mr. Martin had walked twelve miles on his birthday to visit relatives. On his long walk home, he stopped in a small Georgia town and asked a homeowner for some water. That person called the police, complaining about “a black man” on his property.

Due to his schizophrenia, Martin did not understand what the police wanted when they arrived and spoke to him. Instead, he just kept on walking. The deputy apparently thought he was being ignored and called for a backup unit. By the end of the confrontation that followed, tasers were used 15 times on Martin. He also had to cope with the body weight of one or more officers on his body. Martin cried out in pain and said, “They’re killing me.” An autopsy revealed that his death was caused by cardiac arythmia suffered while he was being restrained by the police.

A dashboard cam captured many of these disturbing images and some comments made by one or more of the officers. However, it should be noted that while Martin was being detained – for reasons he did not understand — he did become frightened and defensive when asked to put his hands behind his back.

A lawyer representing Martin’s family said his client was a victim of “walking while black.” After charges were brought against the three deputies involved, they were later granted immunity. That ruling which was largely based on Georgia’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” has now been appealed.

What standards or guidelines should apply when officers use Tasers? 

Mike Leonesio, a retired police officer — who once ran the Taser program for the Oakland Police Department – now testifies in court as an expert on taser usage. He says that officers must regularly second-guess their desire to use a taser on someone. He added that law enforcement should move beyond just asking themselves, “Can I use the Taser” – to “Should I?”

This questioning is especially important to Leonesio (and other experts) when officers realize that the following circumstances are present.

  • The suspect is already physically restrained
  • The person is behind the wheel of a car
  • The individual is immobilized (like in a car or other place clearly indicating confinement)

In the guidelines that Taser company Axon distributes to police department officials, it clearly notes the following, additional advice that can help officers decide when tasers should not be used.

  • Officers should avoid using multiple taser guns near in time to one another
  • No suspect should be forced to endure too many firings of a taser by even one officer during a brief timeframe since that can greatly increase the person’s chance of dying.

Statistics indicate that tasers are too often used negligently – especially against blacks

The Reuters news organization has reviewed just over 1,000 cases in which the police use of tasers resulted in death. Most of those events occurred between the year 2000 and the end of 2018. The group points out that even though African Americans only make up 14% of our American population, they sustain 32% of the deaths police cause by negligent taser usage.

This problem is quite pervasive since roughly 94% of our country’s 18,000 (or more) police agencies often use tasers.

Better police training is crucial to decrease all instances when tasers are used – and efforts should be made to avoid their usage — without resorting to harmful chokeholds and other often deadly measures.  The Reuters review of records also noted that when people arrested were harmed by tasers (or killed), the taser was just one of several forms of force used against them.

If you have suffered serious injuries due to a police officer’s use of a taser or any form of excessive force, you need to immediately contact our New York City police brutality law firm. We will fully investigate the facts of your case and then fight hard to win the maximum compensation available to cover all your lost earnings, pain and suffering, medical expenses and other losses.

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