USA: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International's concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of Tasers

November 29, 2004

USA: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International's concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of Tasers

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(123) From Officer Involved Use of Force Report, by Brian K. McHugh, Chief Deputy District Attorney, 18th Judicial District, Colorado, July 7 2004. The report reviewed written reports of the police investigation, officer and witness statements and other materials.

(124) The in-built memory chip downloaded from the Taser showed that the trigger had been pulled seven times, but collectively people at the scene observed only five discharges, so the report concluded that the two additional trigger pulls must have been within the five-second default period. However, there were inconsistencies in reports of when, for how long and how many times the Taser was used in stun or dart mode. There were also discrepancies in the time line due to the "variance in the accuracy of the various clocks involved".

(125) Orlando Sentinel 5 August 2002 and 2 October 2002 – one report states he was jolted 12 times, another states he was struck 13 times. The autopsy refers only to "Taser usage" by police and notes two areas of circular abrasions with underlying dermal thermal effect.

(126) Pathologist William Anderson, cited in media reports at the time and more recently in "Taser Safety Claim Questioned", Arizona Republic, 18 July 2004

(127) Report of Dr Sidsel Rogde, op cit.

(128) Emergency Medical Services Agency

(129) From transcript of testimony at inquest held in Las Vegas on 25 June 2004

(130) transcript of inquest op cit.

(131) sources: "Nevada Man Dies in Struggle with Authorities, Taser Involved", Associated Press, 16 September 2004; Arizona Republic, 17 September 2004. Amnesty International was seeking a copy of the autopsy at the time of writing.

(132) "Pathologist says Taser contributed to jailed man's death", Associated Press, 23 August 2004

(133) There have been several cases reported of the onset of ventricular fibrillation hours after a low voltage shock (e.g.Journal of Critical Illness, March 2002 "Electrical injuries: an emergency department approach; Cardiac monitoring and an ECG are essential"; Cardiac fibrillation,

(134) Reported in Taser International News Bulletin, Topic: In-Custody Deaths, February 2002.

(135) Letter to ACLU, Colorado, op cit.

(136) "Man Dies After Brea Police Shoot Him With Stun Gun", Los Angeles Times 8 October 2003. This reports only when the officers noticed he had stopped breathing

(137) Metabolic acidosis is a condition in which the acid level within the blood is higher than normal; this can have a number of causes, including ingestion of toxic substances. If metabolic acidosis becomes severe, the person may develop: weakness; confusion; shock; heart problems such as arrhythmias.

(138) This was noted in a letter from Taser International to Mark Silverstein of the ACLU, Colorado, dated 26 February 2004, in response to concerns raised by the ACLU about the possibility of Tasers contributing to deaths caused by metabolic acidosis.

(139) J.M. Kenny, W. Bosseau Murray, Wayne J. Sebastianelli, W. J. Kraemer, R. M. Fish, D.T. Mauager, T. L. Jones, "Human Effects Advisory Penal Report of Findings: Sticky Shocker Assessment", National Criminal Justice Reference Service Doc. No. 188262 (1999).

(140) Fish RM, Geddes LA, "Effects of stun guns and Tasers", Lancet, September 2001.

(141) Traditional "hogtying" involves the individual's wrists and ankles being bound together, so that the shoulders and ankles are raised, placing pressure on the abdomen, a particularly dangerous procedure. The hobble restraint may have a longer cord between the wrist and ankles, allowing somewhat more movement, mainly to allow the individual to be transported in an upright position; while this is less dangerous, deaths have been reported from the hobble restraint, even where someone is placed on their side or upright.