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Thursday, July 29, 2010


Originally posted in March 2009 and re-posted on January 6, 2010 and July 29, 2010

Let us never forget the *people* behind the statistics. These are former Canadians who are no longer with us. If anyone has a photo to share of those Canadians who are not shown here, please let me know.

My brother, Robert Bagnell - 44 – Vancouver, BC - Died on June 23, 2004 - X26 -tasered at least 2 times, possibly as many as 5 times - "Official" cause of death: Consistent with restraint-associated cardiac arrest due to acute cocaine intoxication and psychosis. Bob's autopsy report showed marks on his body consistent to multiple taser shots, which incidently could not be affirmed by the pathologist because she could not explain those marks.

Aron Firman, 27, Collingwood, ON - Died on June 24, 2010

Grant William Prentice, 40 - Brooks, AB - Died on May 6, 2009 - tasered at least 2 times - "Official" cause of death: acute cocaine toxicity and "the medical examiner also concluded the taser did not play a role in the death"

Gordon Walker Bowe, 30, Calgary, AB - November 2, 2008 - tasered 1 time - "Official" cause of death: excited delirium due to cocaine

Trevor Grimolfson - 38 - Edmonton, AB - Died on October 29, 2008, X26 - tasered 3 times - "Official" cause of death: excited delirium brought on by drugs

Sean Reilly, 42 - Brampton, ON - September 17, 2008 - X26 - tasered 2 times - the inquest jury will determine the official cause of death, however, “the forensic evidence indicated that the force used by the officers, including the Taser discharge, did not contribute to his death"

Roman Andreichokov - 25 – Vancouver, BC - Died on May 1, 2004 - X26 - "Official" cause of death: Consistent with restraint-associated cardiac arrest due to or as a consequence of acute cocaine intoxication and psychosis

Robert Dziekanski - 40 - Vancouver, BC - Died on October 14, 2007 - X26 - RCMP - tasered 5 times - "Official" cause of death: Cardiac arrest - taser contributed

Quilem Registre - 39 - Montreal, QC - Died on October 17, 2007 - X26 - tasered 6 times - "Official" cause of death: Necrosis of the liver, small intenstine and colon with contributing factors of 60mg/100 ml blood alcohol level and non quantified level of metabolite cocaine

Peter Lamonday - 33 – London, ON - Died on May 13, 2004 - X26 - "Official" cause of death: Cocaine induced "excited delirium"

Michael Langan - 17, Winnipeg, MB - Died on July 22, 2008 - tasered 1 time - The autopsy report said Michael Langan's death was caused by a heart arrhythmia brought on by the Taser shocks and indicated two darts hit him above his collarbone and on the left side of his chest.

Jeffrey Marreel - 36 - Norfolk, Ontario - Died on June 23, 2008 - OPP - # of times tasered: "no comment" from SIU - "Official" cause of death: "the Ontario Special Investigations Unit said it has concluded Marreel died of acute cocaine poisoning"

Jason Doan - 28 – Red Deer, AB - Died on August 30, 2006 - RCMP - tasered 3 times in 38 seconds - "Official" cause of death: undeterminable

Howard Hyde - 45 - Halifax, NS - Died on November 22, 2007 - tasered 2 times - "Official" cause of death: "Excited delirium" due to paranoid schizophrenia, with contributing factors of Coronary artery disease, obesity and restraint

Gurmeet Sandhu - 41 – Surrey, BC - Died on June 30, 2005 - RCMP - tasered 8 times - "Official" cause of death: Acute cocaine intoxication due to atherosclerotic coronary artery disease and cardiac hypertrophy

Clayton Willey - 33 – Prince George, BC - Died on July 22, 2003 - RCMP - X26 - "Official" cause of death: drug overdose

Claudio Castagnetta - 32 - Quebec City, QC - Died on September 20, 2007 - tasered 5 times - "Official" cause of death: accidental severe cerebral edema (Coroner Dr. Jean Brochu)

Robert Knipstrom - 36 - Chilliwack, BC - Died on November 24, 2007 - RCMP - tasered at least 6 times - "Official" cause of death: acute ecstasy intoxication and excited delirium

Kevin Geldart - 34 – Moncton, NB - Died on May 5, 2005 - RCMP - "Official" cause of death: excited delirium with contributing factors including repeated shocks with a taser and pepper spray

Jerry Knight - 29 – Mississauga, ON - Died on July 17, 2004 - X26 - "Official" cause of death: “restraint asphyxia” with cocaine-related excited delirium

Jail death is witnesses' nightmare

July 29, 2010
Susan Greene, Denver Post

I'd like to believe that any of us would speak out if we watched a man be roughed up and die behind bars. Still, I'm pretty sure we'd hesitate out of self-preservation.

Dozens of people who were waiting to be booked into Denver's jail July 9 witnessed sheriff's deputies restrain Marvin Booker and shock him with a Taser before he went limp on the floor.

Some openly denounced the deputies for the excessive force they're convinced killed Booker right in front of their eyes. Some questioned why, as they tell it, officials ordered an inmate to sweep up and mop the crime scene shortly after the body was rolled away.

A few outspoken critics were promptly shuffled into holding cells where their commentaries couldn't be heard, witnesses tell me. They say an officer then asked if anyone else had anything to add, as if they, too, would be shooed off and silenced.

I wrote last week about Booker's death in the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility and the city's refusal to make public any of the videos taken from various angles.

John Hickenlooper has the power to release the footage. City Attorney David Fine now says the mayor "wants the video released, but the DA has insisted that the video not be released while his investigation is pending."

Without the videos or an autopsy report, we can't yet know exactly what killed Booker and need to suspend disbelief as the sheriff's deputies involved keep reporting for duty.

Meantime, The Post is getting consistent eyewitness accounts about the scuffle that led to Booker's death — and about those witnesses feeling too intimidated to come forward.

One of them, Phillip Wicks, was waiting to be booked that day for failure to appear on traffic violations. He's 56, has a drug conviction and has worked as a referee for high school sports.

After Booker's death, a city official asked Wicks if he wanted to make a statement.

"I'd just watched them kill a man and sweep it up. As long as I was (in) their custody, I couldn't take the risk," he says.

I'm struck by a moment when witnesses say it was obvious that Booker had no pulse, yet an officer started speaking to his limp body, telling him to stop resisting.

"All of a sudden, the charade had started and they're pretending he's not dead," Wicks says.

After Booker's body was wheeled away with a towel over his face, the same officer insisted to the crowd that he had a faint pulse.

I'm especially curious to see videotapes of the point at which officials scurried to tidy up the scene, according to the witnesses.

"I'm no detective. But I've watched enough 'CSI' to know that this ain't the way it's supposed to be done," Wicks says.

Fine wouldn't comment.

Nearly three weeks after his 20 hours in jail, Wicks is rattled by what happened to the man across from him in the booking area.

"They choked and electrocuted a man right there in front of us. . . . Where's the outrage?" he says.

"If they did that at the dog pound, the people of this city would be up in arms."

$500,000 to family of man Tasered to death by Chicago police

July 28, 2010
Chicago Tribune

The City Council today agreed to pay $500,000 to the family of a man who died in 2005 after being Tasered by a Chicago police sergeant.

The sergeant used a Taser on Ronald Hasse, 45, for 62 seconds when he resisted police trying to take him into custody. Hasse later died from “electrocution due to taser application” with crystal methamphetamine intoxication as a “significant contributing factor.”

Since then, police have learned of potential harm from long Taser applications, especially if used on people who have taken narcotics, according to a Law Department statement. The payment settles a lawsuit filed by Hasse’s family.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who should watch over civilian-led investigation unit in British Columbia?

July 27, 2010
By Benjamin Goold, Special to the Sun

On June 18, British Columbia Attorney-General Mike de Jong announced that the government would establish a new civilian-led unit to investigate all police-related deaths and serious incidents across the province. Following after the Braidwood Commission's second and final report into the death of Robert Dziekanski, the announcement represents a significant shift in government policy on independent police oversight and police accountability. Yet, while the government has rightly received praise from all quarters for this historic step, a number of important questions remain unanswered.

First, it is unclear as to why the government believes it must consult in order to determine who should be made responsible for overseeing the new Independent Investigation Office (IIO). Although the Braidwood Report clearly states that the provincial Ombudsperson should have jurisdiction over any new oversight body, the A-G has instead indicated that he has yet to decide whether the IIO should answer to the Ombudsperson or to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. Given that the government has accepted all of the Commission's other major recommendations about the structure and remit of the IIO, its apparent hesitation on the question of oversight is curious and worrying.

In his report, Commissioner Braidwood makes a good case for giving the Ombudsperson jurisdiction over the IIO. Looking at the experience of the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Braidwood notes that members of the unit were found by the Ontario Ombudsman to be steeped in police culture, and that this prevented the SIU from becoming a truly civilian oversight body. As the new IIO will need to work closely with the police and may well be staffed by former police officers, there is a danger that it will likewise become increasingly aligned with the police and struggle to preserve its independence. Giving jurisdiction over the IIO to the provincial Ombudsperson -whose office is completely removed from the police -may not entirely eliminate this danger. It would, however, establish a distance that may help to ensure that the IIO maintains its civilian character and gains the public's trust.

The second major unresolved question is that of funding. Although it is still early days, it is vital that the government makes a clear commitment to providing the new IIO with the resources it needs to do its job properly. If the IIO is to help restore public confidence in the police and our criminal justice system, then it needs to be able to pursue investigations and discharge its oversight responsibilities without being constrained by penny-pinching or staff shortages. Sadly, history is littered with example of similar oversight bodies that have been established with the best of intentions but then crippled by inadequate resources. If the government is serious about addressing the problem of police oversight and accountability, it must be willing to put its money where its mouth is.

As the government begins the process of implementing the recommendations of the Braidwood Report, it is crucial that it acknowledges that the police are not like other public servants. Even junior officers are empowered to use force in the execution of their duties, and are frequently called upon to make difficult judgments as to when and to what extent that force should be used. Paradoxically, while police officers have this "monopoly on violence" they are also reliant on the trust and confidence of the public in order to do their job efficiently and effectively. Without the support of the public, even the most mundane police tasks can become extremely difficult and potentially confrontational.

Reconciling these two fundamental aspects of policing is no easy task. In order for the public to accept that the police should be able to use force, they must be confident that the police will only use this power when absolutely necessary, and that when mistakes are made they are investigated and wrongdoers are held properly accountable. Otherwise, there will always be an unhealthy tension between the police and the public, and the effectiveness of the police will be seriously undermined.

It is for this reason that the government must take the task of restoring confidence in the police extremely seriously, and ensure the IIO is both properly funded and completely independent. If we end up with an IIO that is a watered down or hamstrung version of the body envisaged by the Braidwood Report, we will have failed to learn the lessons of Robert Dziekanski's tragic death.

Benjamin Goold is a professor at the University of British Columbia's faculty of law, and the author of a number of books on policing, surveillance, and the relationship between security and human rights.

Mississippi man's death after tasering being investigated

July 28, 2010
The Associated Press

CLEVELAND, Miss. -- The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is continuing its investigation into the death of a 30-year-old Cleveland man who died after being jolted twice by police stun guns. Bolivar County Coroner Nathaniel Brown says Jermaine Williams died on July 23 after police used Tasers to subdue him. Brown tells The Bolivar Commercial that Williams was hit in the back and front of his body. He says toxicology results are pending. The Cleveland Police Department recently started using the Taser X26. A Taser shoots a probe that delivers a shock.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"The cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia that was induced by the electrical tasing device (TASER)

July 27, 2010
by Aimee Robinette, The Bolivar Commercial

As of noon, the Cleveland Police Department has yet to release information about three officers involved in the suspicious death of 30-year-old Jermaine Williams on July 23.

While what occurred during the incident is still being investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, it appears Williams received two TASER deployments, one to his front and the other to his back, according to Bolivar County Coroner Dr. Nathaniel Brown.

A press release issued by the police department noted that after his arrest Williams was lethargic and an ambulance was called.

On Saturday, Bolivar County Deputy Coroner J.O. Trice said he considered the death of Williams a homicide and attributed it solely to the TASER.

“The cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia that was induced by the electrical tasing device (TASER),” he said on Saturday. “The young man was quite healthy for a 30-year-old fellow.

“Most of it is still pending,” he said. “We’re just waiting on the results from the toxicology but it has not changed my opinion about the cause of death. The toxicology report may take a month or so before we get all the results back.”

Brown said this morning the manner and cause of death are pending the official toxicology report but added that an illegal substance was found in Williams’ system.

“There was cocaine and alcohol found in Mr. Williams’ system,” Brown said. “That must be considered.”

In the preliminary autopsy report from the State Crime Lab, Williams had alcohol in his blood as well as cocaine in his urine.

“The blood/cocaine level is still pending,” Brown said. “Cocaine can cause heart arrhythmia and death by itself. The cocaine coupled with an electrical shock ... that combination could have caused his death.”

Regardless, Williams’ death could still fall under accidental or justifiable homicide, according to Brown who said that was just his opinion as he is not an attorney.

The Cleveland Police Department recently started using TASERs as a way to subdue resistive and combative individuals. The department underwent training as well as having to be on the receiving end of a TASER before they were allowed to use them on the street.

The TASER X26 Electronic Control Device (ECD) is what the department utilizes. It uses a replaceable cartridge containing compressed nitrogen to deploy two small probes that are attached to the TASER X26 by insulated conductive wires with a maximum length of 35 feet, according to product information. The TASER X26 transmits electrical pulses through the wires and into the body affecting the sensory and motor functions of the peripheral nervous system. The energy can penetrate up to two cumulative inches of clothing, or one inch per probe.

Each TASER has a recording device built in that cannot be tampered with.

These and other factors are being investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations.

EDITORIAL: Denver jail death needs full scrutiny

July 27, 2010
The Times Call

The recent death of an inmate at the new Denver County jail has raised serious questions about the behavior and decisions of public employees at the jail during the incident.

According to The Denver Post, Marvin Booker, 56, died shortly after being shot with a Taser repeatedly in an altercation with jail personnel. Two witnesses, both of whom were at the jail because they’d been arrested, told essentially the same story, according to the Post story. Neither witness was characterized as a career criminal.

The incident began at the jail early in the morning on July 9, according to the Post. The witnesses say Booker was sleeping in a chair in a holding area when his name was called at about 3 a.m. A sleepy Booker walked to the processing desk without his shoes. A female deputy asked him to sit in a chair by the desk but he said he wanted to stand. When Booker went to get his shoes, the deputy repeatedly told him to stop, then tried to restrain Booker, who pushed her away. Four other deputies wrestled Booker to the concrete floor. A fifth deputy put Booker in a headlock while a female deputy began shocking him.

Booker was heard to say he couldn’t breath. The deputies left him lying facedown on the floor of a holding cell but didn’t check his pulse. He was pronounced dead later that morning.

One witness told the newspaper, “What I saw is not what you’d expect to see in America.”

There are further disturbing aspects to this story that must be fully investigated.

Booker, described as a homeless, ordained minister who worked with poor people, did not have a spotless record, to be sure. He had what was described as a string of arrests. He was in jail on this occasion on suspicion of possession of drug paraphernalia.

The public should demand a full, fair and independent investigation. This seems like a needless death and a situation that most likely could have been approached differently and more professionally. The public interest in this case will be much better served if a videotape of the incident and other evidence does not become “lost,” as has happened before.

If Denver authorities do not conduct a fair and independent investigation, then the Colorado attorney general should step in as soon as possible. Federal authorities should also keep a close eye on this situation in Denver. Federal involvement may be needed to get to the truth and to make necessary recommendations for improved jail operations.

Law enforcement work is among the toughest and most dangerous jobs. According to the newspaper, a female deputy was treated at a hospital for an injury sustained in the incident.

But there still is right and wrong.

Government authority in the United States, whether in a jail, prison or on the street, is not absolute authority.

Maybe something can be learned form this sad and unnecessary incident. One thing is clear. The administration of the Denver County Jail must be forthcoming with the facts and must vastly improve its operations immediately. The residents of Denver and the people of Colorado deserve no less.

Call for police watchdogs growing across Canada

July 27, 2010
Shannon Kari, National Post

Standing on the front steps of the sandstone facade of the Osgoode Hall courthouse in downtown Toronto, Evelyn Minty grieved openly about the loss of her son, Douglas, who was fatally shot by an Ontario Provincial Police officer last year.

"I want answers. I want to know what happened with my son," she said outside a court hearing this spring. "I don't want mothers to go through what I have gone through. It's been a year. I can't forget it. I can't sleep nights."

Her developmentally disabled 59-year-old son had a knife and was allegedly approaching an officer in the small community of Elmvale, about 120 kilometres northwest of Toronto, when he was killed.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the civilian agency in Ontario that probes incidents of serious harm or death involving police, ultimately decided not to charge the officers involved. It was not an unexpected decision: No criminal charges have been laid against a police officer in Ontario in any of the 45 fatal shootings of civilians over the past decade.

Frustrated by the lack of information about the case, the Minty family and relatives of Levi Schaeffer, another man fatally shot last year by police, went to Ontario Superior Court. They want the court to order an end to practices such as officers consulting with lawyers before drafting their notes in these types of cases. What is unusual is that the families have the support of the SIU. Its director, Ian Scott, agreed that the vetting of notes and the potential for collusion when several officers retain the same lawyer are preventing the agency from conducting independent and timely investigations.

It is the first time in the two decades since the SIU was created that its director has complained publicly about impediments to investigating police.

Standing on the other side of the court aisle were lawyers representing every major police organization in Ontario.

"We have a pretty good model," said Ron Bain, executive director of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, in an interview. "The SIU has evolved over time to be more operationally sound. I am not hearing anything out of the Atttorney-General's office that the SIU needs changing."

Resisting change, however, may be a futile pursuit. The call for better police oversight is growing.

The Alberta and Manitoba governments are moving to greater civilian oversight of incidents of serious injury or death to a civilian involving police. The Toronto Police Services Board has agreed to a review of the actions that led to the arrest of hundreds of people at the G20 summit in June.

Perhaps most prominent are the recommendations of Thomas Braidwood, who presided over the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died after being Tasered at Vancouver International Airport in 2007. He is calling for the creation of an oversight agency with the broadest powers in the country. "The debate is no longer whether British Columbians should have a civilian-based investigative body, but what it should look like," wrote the retired B.C. Court of Appeal judge in his report released last month.

One recommendation, which by Mr. Braidwood acknowledges is potentially controversial, is that the new agency would eventually be made up only of civilian investigators. This is not the case in Ontario, where most SIU investigators are retired officers.

This is not something police in B.C. would necessarily oppose. "Our concern is only that the investigators have the proper training and expertise," said Clayton Pecknold, president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police.

The association first said last fall that it supported a civilian oversight agency in B.C. "These investigations take up a lot of resources. We are happy to have an agency take this one on," said Mr. Pecknold, who also serves as deputy chief constable of the Central Saanich Police Service.

"While we have confidence in our past investigations, we need to deal with public perception. Let's get this up and running."

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is also urging the province to move quickly to implement the Braidwood recommendations. "I am very optimistic. This is what the public wants," said Robert Holmes, president of the civil liberties group. "Oversight is not about criminal charges [against police], it is about public confidence."

For its part, the B.C. government indicated the new oversight agency would be up and running within a year. Attorney-General Michael de Jong declined a request for an interview.

Julian Falconer, who represents the Minty and Schaeffer families, said better oversight will increase public confidence in police. "It does police services no good to justify or conceal bad policing. Good police officers should not be left out of the equation of those who benefit from effective oversight," Mr. Falconer said.

In Ontario, there may also be political obstacles for the SIU, as well as the relatives of Mr. Minty and Mr. Schaeffer.

Superior Court Justice Wailan Low ruled recently that it was not for the courts to decide on whether the vetting of notes and one lawyer representing multiple officers violate Police Act regulations. While two provincial reports recommended an end to the practices, "whether the government adopts the suggestions in the reports and enacts laws to implement them is within its province alone," she concluded.

Lacking confidence that the Ontario government will act on those two reports, the families recently filed an appeal of Judge Low's ruling. That appeal is unlikely to be heard until the fall.



Often described in other provinces as the "gold standard" for civilian oversight of police panels, the Special Investigations Unit in Ontario, however, has been beset by controversy since it was created in 1990. Some facts:

-No fewer than seven government-commissioned reports have examined policing, oversight and the complaint process since the SIU was created.

-Its annual budget of $6.8-million (according to its 2008 annual report, the most recent available) is less than half that of the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, even though Ontario has seven times the population.

-Between 2003 and 2008, criminal charges were laid against police in less than 2% of the more than 1,000 cases investigated.

-A 2008 report by Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin, himself a former SIU director, suggested it was still a "fledgling" organization that was "administratively and technically challenged."

PERF CED Guidelines Executive Meeting

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), with support from the Office of Community Oriented Policing (COPS), is convening an executive-level meeting on August 3, 2010 to review and consider revisions to PERF’s 2005 Conducted Energy Device (CED) guidelines. While PERF’s 2005 CED guidelines are generally considered strong, we believe it is time to revisit the guidelines and update them as necessary to reflect the current CED research, the experience of police departments that have been using CEDs, and recent legal developments.

In recent years, many law enforcement agencies have reported success with increased deployment of CEDS, including a decline in overall injury rates among suspects and officers. Yet at the same time, there has been significant controversy about the safety of such devices. Quite a bit of research has been conducted by medical experts and professionals to attempt to assess the injury risks associated with the use of CEDs. Further developments have come with Taser International’s recent training bulletin changing its recommended area away from the chest and the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that a California officer’s use of a CED against a traffic violator was not reasonable when the officer believed the subject to be mentally disturbed but did not pose an immediate threat to the officer or bystanders.

The day-long meeting will be held in Philadelphia on August 3, 2010, for police chiefs and senior-level designees who can accurately represent their agencies’ positions and contribute to this policy-level discussion.

Meeting Details
When: August 3, 2010
Time: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Location for Executive Meeting
The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia
Ten Avenue of the Arts
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102-2598
Phone: 215-523-8000

Please complete your meeting registration on-line at www.surveymonkey.com/s/perfced as soon as possible.

You are responsible for your travel and lodging expenses.

A limited number of rooms are available at the group rate of $153.00. Please contact The Ritz-Carlton directly no later than July 19, 2010 to make your room reservation. You can make your reservation by phone at 215-523-8000 or on-line at https://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Philadelphia/Reservations/Default.htm.

You must provide the correct booking code in order to ensure that you receive the group rate. The booking code for this meeting is PRFPRFA. For questions or additional information, you can contact Molly Griswold at PERF at 202-454-8344 or e-mail mgriswold@policeforum.org.

Australian Police to attend US Taser conference

July 28, 2010
July 28, 2010

VICTORIA Police will next week attend a conference of American police chiefs to address growing concerns about the safety of Tasers.

The findings of the conference could have ramifications for the use of the stun guns in Victoria, where 30 are being trialled in Bendigo and Morwell.

The Police Executive Research Forum will meet in Philadelphia to review its guidelines around the use of stun guns after what the forum describes as ''significant controversy about the safety of such devices'' since its guidelines were last updated in 2005.

Advertisement: Story continues belowThe conference comes as The Age can reveal that a Taser was accidentally discharged at Bendigo police station earlier this month.

In 2008, a damning Amnesty International report into Taser use found the stun guns contributed to, or caused, at least 50 deaths in America in the seven years to August that year.

Superintendent Mick Williams, who will travel to Philadelphia on Saturday, said he was aware of the report and acknowledged that the weapons had been used irresponsibly overseas.

Superintendent Williams, said Victoria Police would learn from hearing other agencies' experiences with Tasers, and he was confident those mistakes would not be repeated here.

The 12-month trial in rural Victoria began this month, with a decision on whether they will be rolled out statewide expected after that. There has been no operational deployment of a Taser yet in the trial.

Mom suing cops over son's death

July 26, 2010
Dean Pritchard, QMI Agency

WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg woman whose teenage son was killed after being shocked by a police Taser is suing city police and the makers of the controversial weapon.

Police officers used “unnecessary force ... amounting to assault and battery” when they shocked 17-year-old Michael Langan with a Taser, Sharon Shymko alleges in a lawsuit filed earlier this month.

Langan died July 22, 2008 after he was “chased, (shocked with a Taser) and killed during the course of an interaction with the unnamed constables,” says the lawsuit.

Police at the time said Langan was shocked after he refused two officers’ repeated demands to drop a knife.

Before the incident he allegedly smashed the passenger side window of a Lexus car, parked at MWG Apparel Corp. at 1147 Notre Dame Ave., and stole something, police said.

Two witnesses followed the youth on foot to William Avenue and Arlington Street, where they flagged down officers. The teen was allegedly holding a knife when the officers approached him in the alley between the 800-block of William Avenue and the National Microbiology Lab.

Police failed “to use appropriate police strategy to arrest (Langan) when they knew or should have known (Langan) was armed,” says the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges city police were never trained in the proper use of the Taser and that the weapon was never safety tested.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Top court upholds damages for charter breaches

July 23, 2010
CBC News

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld $5,000 in damages against British Columbia for breaching the charter rights of a Vancouver lawyer strip-searched by police who wrongly thought he was going to throw a pie at Jean Chrétien.

However, in the unanimous landmark ruling Friday, the top court set aside damages of $100 against the City of Vancouver stemming from the seizure of lawyer Alan Cameron Ward's car.

The ruling means that people whose rights have been infringed can seek damages even if they suffered no actual loss and even if the authorities acted in good faith.

Ward was arrested in August 2002, when Vancouver officers thought he was going to throw a pie at Chrétien, then prime minister.

Police placed Ward in handcuffs and escorted him to a police van. A cameraman from a local TV station filmed the arrest, and the footage was later broadcast on the evening news.

Ward was well known within the court system and had built a respected career representing people who have accused police of misconduct, often for free.

He spent several hours in jail and, despite his objections, was strip-searched. He sued both the province and the city.

In an interview with CBC News, Ward said Friday he was relieved that his "eight-year odyssey is finally over" and was pleased with the decision.

'Charter rights really have some meaning'

"It is an important decision that makes it clear that charter rights really have some meaning, and in certain cases when they're violated people can recover a meaningful remedy."

The decision may have application in a variety of contexts, Ward added.

"Recently we've all heard about the G20 arrests, and if people are able to prove that they were wrongly detained or arrested or in some cases perhaps even strip-searched, they may be able to recover monetary compensation, which would also act as a deterrence in certain cases. It may also have application, for example, to people who were wrongly convicted and have faced terms of imprisonment."

Ward recalled the day he was arrested as "very upsetting."

He said he had been willing to settle the whole matter with an acknowledgement by the authorities of a mistake and an apology. Instead the province and city "dug in their heels," Ward said. "They must have spent … hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and legal time fighting this case over the last eight years."

Ward said he is grateful for the top court decision, and it is sufficient in lieu of an apology now.

Officers said they thought Ward was going to throw a pie at then prime minister Jean Chrétien, pictured above, in 2002. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
In the ruling, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote that the strip search violated Ward's charter rights, and compensation was required.

Strip searches 'degrading'

"Strip searches are inherently humiliating and degrading and the charter breach significantly impacted on [Ward's] person and rights. The correction officers’ conduct which caused the breach was also serious," McLachlin wrote.

"With respect to the seizure of the car … the object of compensation is not engaged as [Ward] did not suffer any injury as a result of the seizure."

In January 2007, B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Ward's charter rights were infringed for wrongful imprisonment, the strip search and the unreasonable search of his vehicle.

The court ordered the province to pay him $5,000 for the strip search and Vancouver to pay for wrongful imprisonment and the unreasonable seizure of his vehicle.

The B.C. Court of Appeal refused to overturn the award, saying the strip search "amounted to a significant charter breach."

The city and the B.C. government appealed the damages to the Supreme Court of Canada.

He'll always be 'Firman'

July 23, 2010
MEGHAN SANDBERG, The Enterprise-Bulletin

Aron's friend, Meghan Sandberg, provided this to his father after Aron's funeral service. She has provided her permission to republish it here [in The Enterprise-Bulletin].

During Aron's service when the opportunity was given for people to share their memories of Aron, dad nudged me and gave me his little finger wave in an effort to get me to share my memories of Aron--and more importantly my recent conversations with him.

Unfortunately my emotions did not allow me to do so, but as I wandered the house last night trying to console a sick baby, Doreen's words about Aron kept creeping into my head.

At first it was her words about the lack of sleep you endured during the first few years of his life (which, knowing Aron, probably happened again in his teen years). I began chuckle to myself. Then I began to think of both of your words, "he is my son," and Doreen's statement that she did not want him to be remembered for his illness--she wanted him to be remembered as she saw him, as you both saw him, as your child. A happy smiling boy.

When I think of this statement I think of the first conversation I had with Aron after high school. Since moving around the corner from Aron's house on St. Marie Street, I had seen him numerous times out walking, head down not making eye contact.

I, being like many people who had lost contact with him, assumed that he did not remember me--but one day, for some reason, I piped up and said "Hey Firman!"

Immediately his head rose and a beaming smile came across his face. He eagerly replied "Hey Meghan! How's it going?" That smile, when I think of it now, was, for lack of a better word at the moment, absolutely gorgeous.

Perhaps I caught him on a happy day where he just felt like smiling, maybe he was thankful that that awkward, "to say hello or not to say hello" dilemma was over (I know I was), or maybe he was happy to have the opportunity to caringly pick on me once again; whatever the reasoning behind that smile it definitely could have lit up a room.

After that day whenever I was out walking he walked with me. Some days it was only a block or two and others spanned an hour. This is where my "caringly picking on me" comment comes from.

When I entered Grade 9, Amanda and I began to hang out with Aron, Scott, Simon, Tim and Mike. Since we were all getting to know each other everyone was overly nice (Amanda and I no doubt thinking "cool we are hanging out with the Grade 10," and, as Aron so eloquently phrased it back then, the boys were trying to pick up the "fresh meat!"). Actually I should say that everyone was overly nice to each other except Aron and I.

Sure we were nice enough, but thanks to cottaging at the Mitchell's and numerous family gatherings he felt it was OK to pick on me a little, and I in turn had no problem telling him what I thought of his little jokes. After all I was "just Sandberg" to him, he could say whatever he wanted.

This relationship our walks. Aron's ability to change the topic of conversation 10 times in a five-minute walk brought this relationship back. If I got lost as to what we were talking about he would poke fun at me for being slow or tell me it was too complicated for me to understand anyways.

I would shout back "no" and try to justify my reasons for being lost-- which would only result in another change of topic (laughing out loud).

One day about six weeks ago while out for a walk with Hunter I was approached by a resident of the group home, hassling me for money. Having been approached before by this individual and having witnessed her hassle other people (but never when I was alone with Hunter) I was very agitated and attempting to hold my composure.

Just as I was beginning to feel overwhelmed, Aron walked out of the residence's back yard and told her to leave me alone. Of course she didn't but Aron didn't let her away with it. He raised his voice and told her to shut up and go home. He then walk with me in silence until Tim Horton's where he asked me if I was OK and then went in for a coffee.

As I sit and think about it now this may have been the last time I time I talked to Aron. After that day I did not walk past the residence alone and I only saw Aron from a far when Adam, Hunter and I walked by.

As some one who knew Aron both before and during his illness, I want to let you know that I will not remember him for his illness or for what has happened to him, or let it define who he was in my mind or the mind of anyone who speaks to me about him. I am happy that I had the opportunity to walk and talk with him this last year and to see what you already knew, he never changed.

To me he will always be "Firman."

Schizophrenia, drugs were his demons

July 23, 2010

Aron Firman was a son, a brother, a friend.

He was also a troubled young man, whose life was increasingly being taken over by schizophrenia and drug use.

Four weeks after he died during a confrontation with OPP officers, his family is still coming to terms with the circumstances of his death.

All that's known, publicly, is what was in a terse news release from the province's Special Investigations Unit; the SIU is called in when a death or serious injury results during an interaction with police.

On June 24, around 5:30 p.m., officers were called to St. Marie Street group home where Aron lived. There was an altercation with another resident, and when police arrived, Aron became "combative" with officers, assaulting one of them.

One of the officers used a conductive energy weapon -- otherwise known as a Taser, after the company that manufactures the device -- on Aron.

At that point, according to the SIU, he became "unresponsive" and could not be revived in spite of the best efforts of the police officers on the scene.

Marcus Firman and his wife Christine Cowley were at a restaurant with Christine's son when police tracked Marcus down to give him the news his son was dead.

"To hear he may have assaulted a police officer ... it's difficult to draw a line between what Aron was, and what happened (with police)," says Marcus.

The incident is still under investigation by the SIU, and family members still don't know what happened that afternoon, aside from what they've picked up from third parties.

What Aron Firman was, according to friends and family, was a generally gentle individual, full of ideas and creativity.

Listening to Marcus and Christine retelling the story is clearly cathartic; but it's more than just the days that followed in the wake of Aron's death, or the days and weeks that led up to his fatal confrontation with police. It's also the months and years of living with an individual who has a mental illness -- and in that respect, it becomes a tale, both cautionary and inspiring, for others who may see similar patterns in a friend or family member.

Aron's symptoms of schizophrenia didn't begin to manifest themselves until his late teens, says Marcus.

After the break-up of his parents' marriage in 2002, Aron quit school in spite of good grades, especially in math and science.

Marcus found him a job in construction, and he excelled at it. But earning money brought other issues, such as recreational drug use.

He started to mess up. And then, as Christine says, "the TV started to talk to him."

That was the beginning of hearing other voices inside his head.

"Aron always had his idiosyncrasies; he would rub his hands together, for instance, but he would rub them until they were calloused," said Marcus. "But he'd been doing that since he was a baby, so I never really thought anything of it."

He could be artistic and creative, "but he gave up because he couldn't do what he wanted to do," said Marcus. "Whatever medium he was working with, he could not get whatever was in his head, out."

"He didn't think his work (art or writing) was good enough," added Christine.

When Aron began to live with Marcus and Christine, who were married in 2004, the couple started to clue in to Aron's obsessive compulsive disorder, and that it was much more than just "teenage angst." His compulsive behaviour had progressed to a point where he was self-harming; not suicidal, but cigarette burns to his arms and legs. There were appointments with doctors and specialists, and eventually, an assessment that identified Aron as paranoid schizophrenic.

Schizophrenia is characterized by a disintegration of the process of thinking, losing contact with reality. It can manifest as auditory hallucinations (hearing voices), paranoia, delusions; a person with schizophrenia may appear to be incoherent or unintelligible, and be physically agitated.

Drugs -- both recreational and prescription -- can cause, or worsen, the symptoms.

It is frequently confused with dissociative identity disorder, or as it's commonly referred, multiple personality disorder.

Depending on what statistics you're reading, schizophrenia is prevalent in one in 100 people, to one in 200.

There are a variety of factors that could lead to an individual becoming schizophrenic, including genetics, social causes, and drug use; a study released earlier this month suggested it could be linked to defects in proteins in the junctions between nerve cells.

Treatment includes medication, or psychotherapy.

After Aron's diagnosis, the decision was made to take him to the mental health centre in Penetanguishene. "He didn't like it, but there was also a certain security to it for him, and there were rules he had to obey," said Christine.

After four months, Aron returned to Collingwood. He qualified for ODSP and moved into his own apartment, while the couple searching his condition.

Even Aron was convinced he could control his symptoms, and every few weeks would come up with a new scheme to handle his schizophrenia. But it was clear it wasn't working -- especially as he would fall into the frequent pattern of smoking dope.

He also spent time at Georgianwood, a residential program attached to the mental health centre for people with both a substance use problem and a mental illness.

When he came out, the family discovered they couldn't give him money, or give him things that could be hocked or swapped; invariably, the money would be spent on pot.

His legal troubles drew the attention of Immigration Canada; Aron wasn't officially a Canadian citizen -- he had been born in England, but the family moved to the Middle East when he was eight weeks old and had lived in Canada for 20 years. He also started to have run-ins with the law: break-ins or thefts.

Because of his criminal charges, Immigration Canada began the process of deciding whether to deport Aron back to England.

Becoming the focus of the authorities only served to increase his paranoia. He was convinced he was under surveillance. The 'voices' fed on his paranoia, or made him delusional. But they never drove him to violence -- which is why the family can't understand the circumstances that led to his death.

"We've got far more questions than answers, and we don't know if we'll ever get to the truth," said Marcus.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taser International (TASR) 2nd quarter results

Visit www.excited-delirium.com

Anti-Taser group meets petition goal

July 21, 2010
Columbia Daily Tribune

People for a Taser-Free Columbia, a group that wants to ban the use of Tasers and other conducted electrical devices, has gathered the required number of signatures for its initiative petition.

“There are a good amount of people that believe we’d be a better city without the use of the conductive electrical devices,” said Mary Hussmann, a volunteer and spokeswoman for the group.

Hussmann said her group began canvassing for signatures in April. In June, the group turned in more than 4,000 signatures, above the minimum 3,667 required to make the ballot.

However, City Clerk Sheela Amin later notified them that they were almost 500 short because many signatures belonged to residents of Boone County, not registered city of Columbia voters.

For the past few weeks, volunteers returned to work, gathered about 900 more signatures. Amin said the amount of valid signatures in that batch can’t be determined because she told the county clerk to stop reviewing them once they had hit the required number needed — about 490 signatures.

An ordinance that would ban the use of conducted electrical devices will now go before the Columbia City Council. If rejected, it would be put on the November ballot.

This page has been revised to reflect the following correction:

SECOND THOUGHTS: Thursday, July 22, 2010

A headline on a story yesterday about People for a Taser-Free Columbia incorrectly said the initiative banning conducted electrical devices would be on the fall ballot. The measure first will go to the Columbia City Council. If rejected by the council, it would be put on the November ballot.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Petition to ban Tasers approved for Columbia, Missouri City Council consideration

July 21, 2010
BY Erin McNeill, Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA — It is now up to the City Council to decide the fate of an ordinance banning the use of Tasers in Columbia.

City Clerk Sheela Amin notified People for a Taser-Free Columbia on Monday that their petition had met the requirement of at least 3,667 registered voter signatures and can now be presented as an ordinance to the City Council for consideration.

The ordinance would ban the use or threat to use of Tasers and any Conducted Electrical Devices.

The first submission of the petition on June 2 came up short by 494 signatures because not everyone who signed it was a registered voter. A second submission of 900 additional signatures July 6 brought the petition up to the minimum requirement.

According to a news release, the Taser-Free campaign believes the use of Tasers and CEDs should be banned due to their unpredictability and unreliability. The release also cites "thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths (that) have occurred in conjunction with or after tasing" as evidence of the potential danger of these devices.

Catherine Parke, a member of People for a Taser-Free Columbia, said the unpredictability of these devices is a danger to both those who operate them and those on the receiving end of a shock.

In October 2009, Taser International, a company that manufactures Tasers for law enforcement, military and personal protection use, issued a new warning cautioning users to avoid targeting the chest area with their devices, as it could cause damage to the target's heart.

Parke believes this is just one more reason Tasers pose an unnecessary risk and should be banned.

"If the corporation that makes, markets and sells (Tasers) is still figuring out what they do, they shouldn't be used in our community," she said.

The City Council will now have the opportunity to review and vote on the ordinance. The first reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the Aug. 2 Council meeting. The second reading and vote are scheduled for Aug. 16.

If the Council does not pass the ordinance, it would be put on the ballot for the Nov. 2 election, and Columbia residents will have the final say.

Winnipeg mother sues Taser manufacturer over son's death

July 21, 2010
Matt Preprost, Winnipeg Free Press

WINNIPEG — The mother of a Winnipeg teen, who died after police stunned him multiple times with a Taser in July 2008, has filed a lawsuit against the weapon-maker after an autopsy linked his death to the weapon.

Michael Langan, 17, died after police shocked him twice with a Taser in a back lane in July 2008. Autopsy results obtained by the Winnipeg Free Press said Langan's death was caused by a heart arrhythmia brought on by the Taser shocks.

His mother, Sharon Shymko, filed documents on Monday claiming Taser International, the Arizona-based manufacturer of the stun guns Winnipeg police carry, failed to design and calibrate its products "in a manner that would ensure it would not discharge voltage so as to inflict lethal injuries."

"Tasers, whether Taser International admits it or not, are lethal weapons," said family lawyer Jay Prober. "I think it's time Taser International admitted that. We intend to pursue them vigorously on this lawsuit and hold them accountable.

"There are too many deaths and serious injuries caused by this weapon," he said.

The lawsuit also alleges Taser International failed to secure Canadian regulatory approval for its Tasers, and for promoting them as "non-lethal" when they have been known to have caused deaths in the past.

Taser International didn't respond Tuesday to calls for comment, but have said in the past they stand behind the safety of their products.

Shymko has also named the City of Winnipeg, police Chief Keith McCaskill, and two unidentified constables in her lawsuit, which seeks unspecified financial and other damages.

Shymko alleges the constables "acted in a high-handed, arrogant and malicious manner" that resulted in her son's death.

The lawsuit names McCaskill as liable for the actions of his constables, and according to the Provincial Police Act, the city is obliged to pay all damages and costs awarded against him.

The Winnipeg Police Service said they can't comment on the matter because it's before the courts.

An autopsy report said two darts hit Langan above his collarbone and on the left side of his chest.

Contributing to the death was a heart abnormality, said the report.

The report also indicated Langan had injuries on his scalp, trunk and arms and legs as well as a high volume of alcohol in his system. The teenager also had marijuana in his system.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kansas man dies after he is tasered several times

July 18, 2010: Edward G. Stephenson, 46, Leavenworth, Kansas

New Zealand: 13% (THIRTEEN PERCENT!!) of tasers prove ineffective

Police trained in what to do when Taser fails

July 20, 2010
By IAN STEWARD - The Dominion Post

Police are trained to manually insert Taser probes if firing them into a target fails, national headquarters says.

Auckland police shot a man after a Taser proved ineffective on Sunday night, but police have not confirmed if a "stun drive", as the manual application is known, was attempted.

The 38-year-old was still in hospital yesterday having undergone surgery for bullet wounds to his arm, hand and abdomen.

Police were still investigating whether the man fired the air rifle he pointed at police, a spokeswoman said.

Forensic specialists, including ballistic experts, searched the scene in Nikau St, New Lynn, yesterday.

Police said they still did not know how many shots they fired or how many hit the man.

Superintendent Bill Searle said police could not be certain of the number until interviews and ballistic examinations were completed.

Superintendent John Rivers said it was "the nature of the business" that Tasers sometimes failed.

Six of 46 Taser firings have failed since their trial and roll-out, including two in the past eight days. Mr Rivers said all six related to a failure of one or both of the electrified probes from the Taser lodging in the target.

"Staff are trained to manage that. If they are in close quarters, they can do a stun drive."

Taser implementation team member Senior Sergeant Paddy Hannon said a "stun drive" or "contact stun" involved an officer taking one of the unconnected probes and pressing it on to the skin of the target.

The probes had to be a certain distance apart to provoke "neuro-muscular incapacitation" – sending the target into spasms – or they could placed close together to induce "pain compliance", he said.

Mr Rivers said the latest medical oversight report covered seven Taser discharges.

Three had resulted in secondary injuries when people suffered "bumps and bruises" from falling down.

Positive outcomes from the Taser, including cases where people had been successfully stunned to prevent them harming themselves, were sometimes ignored, he said.

Winnipeg police lose ANOTHER Taser cartridge

July 20, 2010
CBC News

A piece of Taser equipment has been lost by a member of the Winnipeg Police Service for the third time this year.

And it has happened in District 3 (northwest Winnipeg) each time.

The latest loss occurred Monday, when it fell off an officer's vest, according a news release from the police service.

The item, described as a cartridge inside a pouch, is not the electric stun gun's firing unit but does contain the device's probe wires, which extend when the device is discharged.

"The Winnipeg Police Service would like to advise that the cartridge could pose a risk of harm to the public," states the release. "If the cartridge was to be picked up by an unsuspecting person and carried in a pocket, a build-up of static energy could activate the cartridge, causing the probes to be propelled."

Anyone who finds the cartridge or pouch is asked to call the police immediately.

The same piece of equipment was lost twice in six days in February.

Taser use by Vancouver police has declined

July 19, 2010
Laura Baziuk, The Province

Vancouver police are not using Tasers as much as they used to, says a new report released Monday.

Taser usage declined in 2008, with officers discharging one 33 times, compared to 86 times in 2007, the report suggests.

Based on that trend, usage is expected to also have declined in 2009. In the first quarter of that year, only four Tasers were discharged.

“Subjects appear to comply more often when they are confronted or challenged with a Taser,” the report says. “In turn, officers use the Taser less often as a pain compliance tool or an incapacitation device.”

A Taser was presented, but not discharged, in another 67 incidents in 2008, compared to 80 incidents in 2007.

Though she said it’s difficult to speculate, Vancouver Const. Jana McGuinness says a more stringent selection and training process could be reasons for the decline in usage, as well as previous media coverage and recommendations that have been made on the tool’s use.

Taser use is still under-reported, the report also says. A report was submitted for only 20 out of the 26 times when a Taser was discharged, the report says. A report was filed only half the time when a Taser was deployed but not used.

“Patrol members were responsible for most of the unreported incidents where a Taser was presented but not discharged,” the report says.

The report further suggests that the discrepancy exists because emergency responders have their own report system on Taser use. Taser usage must be reported to detect training gaps, equipment malfunctions and any lack in accountability, it says.

Hospital experts debate wisdom of using stun guns to control violent patients

July 20, 2010
By Leslie Tamura, Washington Post

Police officers in many jurisdictions use stun guns to incapacitate suspects, but the weapons have started to show up in hospital settings as well, a migration that has raised some concerns.

On July 8, a security guard used a stun gun on the 25-year-old nephew of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas after he allegedly became combative when trying to leave a Marrero, La., hospital against doctors' orders, according to the nephew's relatives. Derek Thomas's family said he was subdued with a stun gun. The hospital has cited patient privacy laws in declining to comment.

There are 151 hospitals in the United States that use or are testing Taser brand electronic control devices, according to a company spokesperson.

Each hospital develops its own stun-gun guidelines, but a company spokesperson said, "Hospital security officers on scene are best able . . . to determine the proper response."

"When used properly," the spokesperson wrote in an e-mail, "Taser technology is among the most effective responses to resistance interventions available to law enforcement officers to halt violent situations that pose a safety risk to an officer, suspect or innocent citizens."

According to Robert Philibert, a professor of psychiatry, genetics and neurosciences at the University of Iowa who has written about the use of Tasers and similar weapons in psychiatric care, stun guns are becoming more common in hospitals as a means of controlling violent patients. "If dialogue fails, then generally a show of force is explored," he said. "Physical restraint is a last choice."

He added that the use of stun guns in patient units is "extraordinarily troubling" and that "in the hospital setting they should only be used with the most utter discretion -- only in the context in which serious threat to life or bodily integrity is in play."

According to Jeffrey Ho, an emergency room doctor and the author of a 2009 paper about the use of Tasers in health-care settings, stun guns do control violent patients and can prevent dangerous situations from escalating and causing injury to the patients and others. He based his findings on a year-long study of the University of Minnesota hospital where he works. "The hospital environment is not 100 percent calm and peaceful all the time," he said. "Acts of violence do occur against staff, physicians, nurses, those types of things, and really the best method of security is to be proactive."

Stun guns use a simple point-and-shoot action, with sharp metal prongs deploying from the gun and embedding in the target. Once embedded, they emit brief electrical pulses that cause muscles to contract and the entire body to go into a paralyzing rigor.

"It's very uncomfortable -- it's painful," says William P. Bozeman, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University, who has studied the physiological effects of the guns since 2002, "but as soon as the Taser stops sending out electricity, the pain is over and you're fully functional again in a matter of moments."

Bozeman published a study in 2009 of 1,201 people who had been stunned and found that 99.7 percent of them have few to no injuries. The mild bumps, bruises and scrapes that did occur were a result of falling down when the muscles locked.

In 2008, Amnesty International published a seven-year study that found that 334 people in the United States died shortly after being struck by Tasers. Drug intoxication was the official cause of most of the deaths, but Amnesty International concluded, "Taser shocks caused or contributed to at least 50 of the deaths." There have been instances of serious head injuries and skeletal fractures from Taser-induced falls. Bozeman says that a few reports raised the possibility that prongs shot into the target's head may have caused seizures.

For this reason, Bozeman, who also works as a trauma-center physician, said stun guns should be used in hospital settings only as a last resort. "From purely a safety standpoint, they can be useful in some situations," he said, "but [using a stun gun is] never okay as a coercive or punitive measure. . . . Sometimes it's not the patient's fault. But they're actively fighting and swinging and assaulting people. . . . I don't have the ability to play an IV line."

Philibert, however, remains cautious. "Yes, they are better than a gun," he said, "but Tasers are still a threat, a symbol that breaches the trust and the understanding of the patient that you have a comprehensive, beneficent attitude toward the patient."

In the Washington area, stun guns appear to be rare in hospital settings. In the District, only law enforcement officers can legally possess them, according to a D.C. police spokesman.

Security officers at Inova Health System facilities do not carry Tasers, according to hospital officials. In Maryland, personnel for Adventist HealthCare-owned hospitals, Washington Adventist and Shady Grove Adventist, do not carry Tasers.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Judge won't change date in Zehm case: Officer's trial scheduled to begin early next year

The Spokesman-Review July 17, 2010
By Thomas Clouse, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

July 17--A federal judge has denied a request to move up the March 2011 trial date of Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. for his role in the 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm.

Jeffry Finer, who represents Zehm's estate, asked U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle to consider an earlier trial date because of the health of Zehm's mother, Ann Zehm.

But Van Sickle denied the motion and kept the trial at March 7, according to court records.

Thompson's trial was originally set to begin June 7. But with the jury waiting in another room, federal prosecutors informed Van Sickle that they intended to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals his decision barring the presentation of evidence that Zehm had not committed a crime.

Victor Boutros, a trial lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, asked Van Sickle to reset the trial in August to give federal appellate judges more incentive to quickly consider the appeal. But Van Sickle instead set the trial for March 7, which is almost five years after Thompson confronted Zehm following a report by two women who had erroneously claimed Zehm had taken their money from a cash machine on March 18, 2006.

Thompson struck Zehm with a baton and shocked him with a Taser, and several other officers hogtied Zehm for about 17 minutes until he stopped breathing. Zehm, a 36-year-old janitor with paranoid schizophrenia, never regained consciousness and died two days later.

In June 2009, a federal grand jury indicted Thompson on felony charges of using excessive force and lying to investigators. As the criminal case proceeds, a civil case against Thompson has been put on hold.

Raoul Moat stun gun cops 'not trained'

July 18, 2010
By Neville Thurlbeck, News of the World

POLICE marksmen who fired at Raoul Moat with a new shotgun Taser were given just TEN MINUTES training at the stand-off scene.

An armed police source with intimate knowledge of what happened in the final seconds said Moat - holding his shotgun under his chin - went into a muscular spasm as he was hit.

A review is now under way to see if this made him accidentally pull the trigger.

But the source insisted the use of the stun-guns was the only hope of ending the stand-off without bloodshed. He said: "The inspector gave the order to bring the XRep Tasers to the scene midway through the evening. They were only to be used as a last resort.

"None of the officers had seen one before or had received training. They were given verbal instructions. There was no time for a demonstration or practice.

"When it was clear there was no way he was going to give himself up, this was the only option left to us.

"We really don't know how anyone could criticise us. If this had been in London or Manchester, he would have been shot.

"We tried to capture him alive. With the Tasers and around 20 armed officers behind him ready to grab him, we though it might just be possible."

The XRep has a range of 100ft rather than the 21ft of the smaller version. It stuns the victim for longer - a full 20 seconds. Taser describes potential side-effects on their website including: "Involuntary strong muscle contractions."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cops 'excited' by tasers

July 17, 2010
Sky News

COPS hunting for Raoul Moat were "excited" by the arrival of new Tasers just hours before they entered a stand-off with the fugitive gunman, according to witnesses. Onlookers described seeing the weapons being handed out to officers who they said then practised firing them at rubbish sacks.

Killer Moat, 37, died after shooting himself in the early hours of last Saturday morning at the end of a six-hour stand-off in the village of Rothbury, Northumberland.

It followed a week-long manhunt for the steroid-abusing father-of-three, who killed karate instructor Chris Brown, 29, and wounded his former girlfriend Sam Stobbart, 22 and PC David Rathband, 42.

Moat went on the rampage after Sam said she had left him for another man.

She watched as he blasted her new boyfriend to death before turning his gun on her.

Earlier this week, the opening of the inquest into Moat's death heard two Tasers were fired at him around the same time as the fatal shot.

Two firearms officers from West Yorkshire Police fired XRep Tasers, which were not approved by the government, the inquest was told.

The weapon, which is fired from a 12-gauge shotgun, is being tested by the Home Office before being approved for use by police forces in England and Wales.

But the Home Office stressed police could use any weapon they saw fit as long as its use was "lawful, reasonable and proportionate".

Workers on an industrial estate where police officers set up their Moat operation base said they saw boxes of Tasers arriving in a van at 11am on Friday last week.

Jason Potts told Sky News: "They came in a plain cardboard box, a brown cardboard box, and in that there was three other boxes."

Asked what the officers said when they saw the delivery, he replied: "'We've been waiting for these for a while, we're getting them now, what a coincidence.'

"They all seemed excited for them, you know."

Mr Potts said police fired training rounds into rubbish bags before returning to the van to sign forms.

"Eventually the van went away and they were all left with these guns," he added.

Moat was spotted at 7.25pm on Friday July 9 in the Riverside park area of Rothbury.

Armed police and negotiators stayed at the scene until Moat's gun went off at 1.12am the following morning.

He was formally declared dead in hospital at 2.22am.

The matter was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission by Northumbria Police.

The force said it would be "inappropriate to comment" on the Tasers while the IPCC investigation was ongoing.

West Yorkshire Police said it was also unable to comment due to the investigation.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Column by BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey

July 16, 2010

The following is an op-ed column by BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey that was published July 3 in the Contra Costa Times.

By Kenton Rainey
BART Chief of Police

Today marks the end of my second full week as the new BART Chief of Police. I wish I could report that it was pretty uneventful, but I cannot.

The majority of my time has been occupied with coordinating with my law enforcement peers in preparation for possible civil unrest in connection with the Mehserle trial. A large percentage of the remainder of my time has been spent addressing questions about why one of our police officers used his Taser against a suspect who was resisting arrest after being contacted for fare evasion.

The obvious answer for anyone interested in why the officer felt compelled that he had to arrest this suspect is that the aforementioned behavior is against the law, and we are paid to enforce the law no matter how minor. More importantly, however, it's not normal for a 35-year-old man to engage in fare evasion or for him to aggressively and physically resist a uniformed officer who is engaged in the lawful performance of his duty. Bottom line, it's because of this suspect's behavior that there's an issue.

Often, we find that individuals who engage in this type of behavior are no strangers to law enforcement. That's why it was no surprise to learn that the suspect's criminal history includes arrests and/or contacts for battery on a police officer, auto theft, domestic violence, reckless driving, giving false identification to an officer, trespassing and fare evasion.

If we are going to maintain a safe, secure and customer-service friendly transit system, it's important for BART police to enforce minor quality of life crimes like fare evasion. We often ask the men and women of our law enforcement agencies to exercise their discretion when performing their public safety duties on our behalf under the most adverse conditions. They regularly go about their daily routines knowing that their split second decisions are subject to being hotly debated for days, weeks, and months.

With that said, this does not excuse officers who behave intentionally or unintentionally in a manner that is not consistent with BART Police Department operating procedures. That's why we have processes and systems in place to review all incidents involving the use of force. Therefore, we should all step back and let that process occur regarding this incident. Once completed, you have my pledge as the BART Chief of Police that if we have done something wrong, we will admit it, take the necessary steps to fix it and move forward together making our transit system and communities safer.

Finally, one of our elected officials who expressed her opposition to Taser usage has been subjected to personal criticism because of her views. This is both unfair and undemocratic. In a free society the police are entrusted with awesome power that must be open to scrutiny, criticism and citizen oversight if we are going to maintain the public trust. Therefore, not only should we expect this debate to occur, we should welcome it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Australia: Police say Taser misuse not widespread

July 15, 2010
ABC News

Western Australia's Assistant Police Commissioner Steve Brown says initiation rituals are not a part of the police force's culture.

A senior constable and a sergeant from Rockingham police station has been stood down on full pay following allegations they used Tasers as part of an initiation ritual or as punishment. Two junior constables also allegedly involved in the behaviour have been stood down from operational duties.

Mr Brown says the problem is not widespread. "It's a very small discrete number of people. This behaviour appears at this stage to be contained to within the Rockingham police station, it's not the entire contingent of police there at Rockingham," he said.

The Assistant Commissioner says the behaviour is not systemic within the police. "In 28 years I have not experienced in this agency any form of initiation. And I can say pretty much the same for my colleagues. It's something that we are surprised about and that we are taking very seriously," he said.


Police Union president Russell Armstrong is pushing for the officers not to be sacked. "We are disappointed that it's happened. They've let people down, including themselves," he said. "It's an isolated incident, it's not widespread and it's certainly not widespread as part of the wider community of WA Police."

Opposition police spokeswoman Margaret Quirk says the allegations have come as a shock given a recent review showed Tasers were being used appropriately by WA police. "If there is any evidence this is systemic then that is a matter of the gravest concern," she said. But Ms Quirk says it would be unfair for WA police to have their Taser access restricted. "By and large they are used appropriately, so I think we need to wait and see, we shouldn't be throwing the baby out with the bath water," she said.


Mr Brown says an internal investigation is expected to be completed within two weeks. He says the tip-off about the alleged behaviour came from within the station. "As always these investigations that we undertake and our internal affairs undertake are oversighted by the CCC (Corruption and Crime Commission) so we're very confident that there is some independence there in the investigation itself," he said.

In a statement, the Police Commissioner said he would not comment further until the investigation is complete.

Taser a contributing factor in two Georgia deaths

Medical examiner’s reports released to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ruled the use of a Taser was one of several factors that contributed to Audrecas Davis’ and Sukeba Jackson-Olawunmi’s deaths ... “If you remove the Taser, you can’t say they wouldn’t have died anyway,” Bailey said.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Connecticut man dies after he is tasered

July 12, 2010: Anibal Rosario-Rodriguez, 61, New Britain, Connecticut

Said his daughter, Elizabeth: "[Police] assured me that [his death] wasn't the fault of the Taser; they can't assure me that until the autopsy is done," she said. "I really don't want to blame them, but something's not right."

Tasers fired at gunman Raoul Moat 'not approved'

July 14, 2010
BBC News

The Taser stun guns used by officers attempting to stop gunman Raoul Moat from killing himself did not have Home Office approval, it has emerged.

An inquest into the 37-year-old's death heard two officers from West Yorkshire police fired the stun guns at him.

The XREP Tasers used are still undergoing tests however the government has said forces have discretion to use any equipment they deem necessary.

Moat died after a six-hour stand-off in Rothbury, Northumberland, on Saturday.

Details of the use of the Tasers were revealed during the opening of the inquest into Moat's death. The inquest was later adjourned.

A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police said the officers involved have not been suspended from firearms duties and have returned to work.

Newcastle coroner David Mitford said Moat died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head.

Code of practice

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said in a statement that officers had used a long range XREP Taser - which has a range of about 100ft (30m) and operates without wires.

A Home Office spokesman said the XREP Tasers were "currently subject to testing by the HOSDB (Home Office Scientific Development Branch)".

He added: "However, legally, police forces have discretion to use any equipment they see fit as long as the use of force is lawful, reasonable and proportionate.

"The process for approval of less lethal weapons is set out in a Home Office code of practice document on police use of firearms which chief constables must 'have regard to'."

It is not clear whether the Tasers were fired before or after Moat apparently shot himself, Independent Police Complaints Commission investigator Steve Reynolds told the hearing at Newcastle Civic Centre.

He said: "At 1.12am Mr Moat's shotgun discharged, resulting in him receiving fatal injuries.

"At some point around the time of the fatal shot two West Yorkshire firearms officers armed with Tasers discharged their weapons at Mr Moat.

"This was understood to have been in an effort to prevent Mr Moat taking his own life."


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two police officers out after Georgia woman reports getting tased

July 13, 2010

Two police officers are off the force in Richland, Georgia after a woman says she called police to her home, and ended up getting tased.

Janice Wells says she thought a prowler was outside her home on April 26, so she called 911. When police arrived, authorities say Wells refused to tell police the name of a guest who had been at her house.

Video captured by one of the patrol car's dash board cameras shows Wells being zapped by a stun gun.

Ryan Smith with the Lumpkin Police Department has resigned. Also, Tim Murphy with the Richland Police Department was fired for using pepper spray while trying to arrest Wells.

Ga. cop defends use of TASER
July 13, 2010
By Rhonda Cook, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


... Smith, who quit eight days after the incident, remains unrepentant. "I did what I had to do to take control of the situation," Smith told the AJC about his decision to repeatedly discharge his Taser. Yet his former boss, Lumpkin police Chief Steven Ogle, was shocked when he saw the video. "I couldn't believe it," Ogle said. "You don't use it [a Taser] for punitive reasons, to prod someone. It was evident it was an improper use of force. He was an excellent officer other than that incident." Smith resigned just as Ogle started the process to fire him, the chief said. Smith now works for the neighboring Chattahoochee County Sheriff's Office. And on April 28, the Richland Police Department fired Murphy, who did not return phone calls seeking comment.

ARGENTINA: The Justice banned the use of Taser pistols for the Metropolitan Police

July 13, 2010

The head of the court No. 9 of the City of Buenos Aires, Judge Andrea Danas, decided to ban the use of Tasers (electrical stun weapons) that had proposed Head of Government, Mauricio Macri. Among the citations and recitals it is added that it is weapons of torture, as regards the United Nations.

In this way, it gave place to a right of cessation filed by the Centre for Human Rights of the City of Buenos Aires for considering tasers an element of torture similar to others used in the past unfortunately Argentina.

In turn, the order was given to protect the principle of legality and the physical integrity of persons living in the Federal Capital, avoiding situations of violence and subsequent police impunity and that the weapons do not leave marks on the skin after use.

Court prohibits use of stun guns by Metropolitan Police
March 2, 2010

Judge Andrea Danas ordered the Metropolitan Police not to use so-called temporary Taser guns.

The precautionary measure of the judge was in response to an appeal presented by Human Rights association for Buenos Aires City.

The judge held that from the two legal interests must be prioritized health and lives of people than safety, according to the NGO.

Amparo stressed that the UN Committee Against Torture disapproved the use of taser weapons and claimed that such arms may infringe the rights as life, physical integrity and health of people and they encourage the concealment or police impunity because they do not leave marks on the body.

Is excited delirium killing coked-up, stun-gunned Miamians?

July 13, 2010
By Gus Garcia-Roberts, Miami New Times News

"And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane, and carrying on like a madman." — The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

It was as if he were two people. Most of the time, Xavia Jones was a mellow, caring father to his daughter, Catherine. He was an ex-con determined to self-improve, a CNN junkie who studied after work at the Miami Beach Convention Center to earn union certification.

But more and more often, something terrible was taking hold of the lanky Opa-locka native whose skin was inked with "Immortal," "Outlaw," and "Thug Life." Xavia's live-in girlfriend, Carrie, would find him hiding behind the couch, a sweating, convulsing fugitive from invisible corrections officers or other unknown enemies. And he'd burst into evil spells, slapping Carrie and pulling her hair, threatening to kill her for cheating on him, his face a dark slate. "He could be a very good friend," Carrie says, "or the next moment he could be scared and paranoid, thinking everybody in the world was after him."

And then one Friday night after work in January 2008, Xavia permanently entered his own private horror show. Sitting on a couch among friends in a Coral Gables condo, sweating, twitching, and blasted on lines of coke and a half-dozen beers, he hugged himself and pleaded, "Oh, please, Jesus, give me the strength not to do this."

Then he began growling, screaming, and running in and out of the apartment like a man on fire.

At 2 a.m., Coral Gables cops found him lying in the middle of traffic-clogged U.S. 1, screaming, "God is coming to take me!" As an officer edged toward him with gun drawn, Xavia's eyes gleamed as he dared him: "Kill me, kill me, shoot me, shoot me."

One of the four cops present would later say Xavia's threatening posture made it "unsafe to approach." So Sgt. Jesus Garcia unloaded his Taser four times into the writhing man. It "seemed to have no effect." So another officer, Scott Selent, hit him with five more electrical bolts. This time, Xavia "kind of locked up, almost like he was a board," the police would later recall.

As the electricity coursed through Xavia's muscles, the cops slapped cuffs on his wrists, dragged him to the sidewalk, and set him facedown on the pavement. "What the heck is going on?" one officer asked.

"Fuck you, motherfucker," was the answer. As soon as Xavia said it, his body went limp and a white liquid trickled from his mouth.

Xavia Jones was the fifth person to die after being hit with a police stun gun in Miami-Dade, according to a December 2008 study by Amnesty International, ranking it seventh of all counties in the United States. Fifty-two people died in Florida after being hit by the 50,000-volt department-issued Tasers, second only to California's 55.

But the electricity didn't kill Xavia, according to Miami-Dade County associate medical examiner Erik Mont. The official cause: "excited delirium syndrome, associated with cocaine use."

The symptoms were all there, wrote Mont: "agitation, excitability, paranoia, aggression, great strength, numbness to pain, and sudden death."

In fact, in all five county cases of death following tasing, the medical examiner's office named excited delirium as the cause of death. According to the 2008 Amnesty International study, 111 of the nation's 334 post-Taser deaths were blamed on excited delirium.

The bizarre syndrome, first diagnosed in Miami, transforms its typically sane victim into a slobbering, raging, supernaturally strong menace hell-bent on self-destruction. It could be ripped straight from the pages of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Scottish scribe Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 archetypal tale of split personality. In the novella, the gentle Dr. Jekyll drinks a potion to become the murderous, hideous Mr. Hyde. In this real-life affliction, the spark is cocaine.

Excited delirium appears to be inflicting Miamians at an especially alarming rate. Since 1989, the Miami-Dade medical examiner's office has declared 38 people dead of the syndrome. In the past decade alone, that number is 28, compared to five during that time in Broward County.

The Miami victims were predominantly male. Twenty were white or Hispanic; 18 were black. They included a hairdresser, a truck driver, and an attorney. Thirty-six of them had cocaine in their system. The other two were diagnosed schizophrenics.

Among the cases: the crack-addicted former lawyer who ran around Liberty City, screaming that somebody was trying to kill him. He broke into an abandoned house and began beating the walls, and himself, with a stick when he was tased. He died in handcuffs soon after.

Then there was the 35-year-old Northwest Miami-Dade father who for a full day had been "acting paranoid" and was unable to recognize his children, his wife later told cops. Police showed up after he ran into noontime traffic, and he stopped breathing one to two minutes after being handcuffed.

Perhaps the strangest rampage was that of the Key Largo vacationer from Homestead who jumped on the hood of a moving vehicle and rode it for a mile, ransacked a toll booth after chasing away the collector, and climbed in and out of an unlocked van before bursting into an occupied houseboat and hiding in the bathroom. When cops showed up, he swam to a small island, where he was finally apprehended and expired in plastic cuffs and leg restraints.

While Miami-Dade seems to be far outpacing more populated counties throughout the nation in the number of excited delirium cases, critics from the American Civil Liberties Union and the families of victims believe there's a reason the syndrome resembles overwrought fiction: because it is.

The syndrome is not listed in textbooks or recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychiatric Association. It has been met with skepticism as it has spread to the United Kingdom and Canada: A police psychologist in Canada recently made headlines when he testified that excited delirium is a "mythical... dubious disorder" used to justify the use of stun guns, and the Canadian Medical Association Journal has termed it a "pop culture phenomenon."

It is police, not excited delirium, causing at least some of the deaths, critics charge. Of 35 excited delirium death reports the Miami-Dade medical examiner's office made available to New Times, 23 of the subjects died after struggling with police officers. Besides the five tasing incidents, they were hogtied, headlocked, and pepper-sprayed. All were unarmed.

"It's overused by medical examiners across the country to hide brutal murders by law enforcement," says Ronald J. Kurpiers, an attorney who recently challenged the diagnosis in a U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit against West Palm Beach Police officers. "It's bullshit."

As for Xavia Jones's bereaved girlfriend, Carrie, she tells their 5-year-old daughter, Catherine, that Daddy died of a heart attack. "When she gets older," Carrie explains, "I'll tell her the whole story."

Asked if she thinks the police killed Xavia, Carrie scoffs. "I can tell you that he wouldn't have died if they weren't there."


Four decades before Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have scrawled his nightmare-inspired tale of rampage in a three-day cocaine-fueled writing spell, a horse and carriage pulled on to the manicured grounds of the McLean Asylum for the Insane in Somerville, Massachusetts. The coach had traveled 40 miles, and the 31-year-old woman whom orderlies struggled to extricate had "contended violently" the entire way.

She would be immortalized in scientific literature only as "E.A.P.," and she "attack[ed] wildly and discriminately all who approached her."

Her condition that day in July 1847 was a mystery. She was an Army wife, and her husband was away fighting the Mexican-American war. She didn't drink, so the asylum director, Luther V. Bell, ruled out she was suffering from the withdrawal mania delirium tremens. The normally reasonable woman had simply blown a fuse, it appeared, during tea with friends.

McLean Asylum was an opulent place, later home to the notably unstable such as Sylvia Plath, Rick James, and Ricky Williams. The patients ate lobster, and the psychiatric methods were relatively modern. But director Bell broke his own rule and tied E.A.P. to her hospital bed. For the next 16 days, she remained "highly excited" even as she was leeched and administered opium. She rarely slept and "recognize[d] no one."

Then E.A.P. contracted diarrhea. The next day, she simply died.

Bell observed 40 such befuddling cases of unexplained sudden mania from 1836 to 1849, with 30 of them ending in death. The "exhaustive mania" spurned him to publish an October 1849 study in the American Journal of Insanity.

He described the typical afflicted patient as uncomprehending and "suspicious," with dilated eyes and a "pinched-up... florid and greasy" face. "Oftentimes [the] sensation of danger will exhibit itself in the patient attacking any one who approaches him with a blind fury,'' Bell wrote. "If held, he will struggle with the utmost desperation, irrespective of the number or strength of those who may be endeavoring to restrain him... At the expiration of two or three weeks, your patient will sink in death."

The minority that weren't killed by exhaustive mania, wrote Bell, "emerge[d] in a state of absolute recovery at once."

While he noted that "almost every one" of those with the mysterious affliction was strapped to his bed, the doctor was clearly perplexed as to treatment options. He could only cautiously recommend small doses of opium and wine.

The affliction would become known as Bell's mania. Other early 20th-century scientists performed their own studies on similar lethal spells they called "psychotic furors" and "restraint psychosis." And more than a century after the mystery at the gilded asylum, director Bell's findings were revisited in a place he likely could not have imagined: the cocaine-flooded streets of 1980s-era Dade County.


As the Victorian upper crust had treasured its cure-all opium, Miamians doted on their chic white powder at the height of the disco era. "Cocaine was thought to be an open secret, a wonder drug that nobody ever died from," says Dr. Charles A. Wetli, who took his post as Dade County's second-in-command coroner in the late 1970s. Meanwhile, his office processed two overdoses a week.

So Wetli, also a University of Miami pathology professor, co-authored a scientific paper about "death caused by recreational cocaine use" — a revolutionary concept at the time. But it was more difficult to explain an influx of strange cases that began showing up on his gurney: subjects who had raged wildly before sudden death. Cocaine was found in their systems, but not enough to cause overdose.

Wetli noted a profile. "It only happened in chronic users of cocaine, and predominantly in males," he says. "It's as if they're impervious to pain — to pepper spray, to batons, to numchucks. You spray them with pepper spray and they just sort of look at you."

Wetli and UM colleague David A. Fishbain found seven such cases — six in Miami-Dade and one in Palm Beach County — that had occurred during a 13-month period in 1983 and 1984. The resulting study pioneered excited delirium.

The death cases read like classics of the syndrome: The female drug trafficker, the only woman in the study, who suddenly jumped out of a moving car. "You're trying to kill me. Please don't kill me. I have children," she begged of her boyfriend, who was driving, as she dove out the passenger-side door. She died after several police officers "subdued" her with handcuffs and ankle restraints.

Or the 26-year-old man who fought with his boyfriend, stripped naked, and "ran about the apartment smashing a variety of objects," lacerating himself, before expiring in restraints at the hospital.

And the cocaine freebaser who "began running down the street yelling and screaming unintelligibly." He stole and fired a police officer's gun after being tackled. Cops struck him twice on the head with a heavy flashlight, but the medical examiner didn't find lethal injuries.

In five of the seven cases, the subjects died in police custody. Wetli and Fishbain didn't know why excited delirium caused death, but they posited it might have had something to do with the increasing purity of street cocaine. Their only recommendation was that cops and paramedics "be aware of the potential for sudden death" in crazed subjects.

But if Wetli was treading on shaky ground, his biggest case would call into question whether he was stretching the evidence to fit his theory.

For a decade, the bodies turned up in flop motels, parking lots, and alleyways throughout inner-city Miami. They were often naked from the waist down and all showed signs of recently having had sex. They were all black women. Most were prostitutes and chronic cocaine users.

Cops and medical examiners were stumped by the 32 corpses found from 1980 to the turn of the next decade. But it wasn't the work of a subtropical Jack the Ripper, declared Dr. Wetli. Autopsies "have conclusively showed that these women were not murdered," he told the now-defunct Miami News in 1988. Instead, he hatched a brazen theory that would come to provide ammunition for modern-day debunkers of excited delirium.

Wetli posited that a female offshoot of the syndrome, involving the combination of sex and years of cocaine use, had caused the serial deaths. "My gut feeling," Wetli told New Times in 1989, "is that this is a terminal event that follows chronic use of crack cocaine affecting the nerve receptors in the brain."

"For some reason," he expounded to the Miami News, "the male of the species becomes psychotic [after chronic cocaine use] and the female of the species dies in relation to sex."

But in 1992, police announced they had found a serial killer responsible for the deaths: 36-year-old Charles Henry Williams. Wetli's boss, chief examiner Joseph Davis, exhumed the bodies for re-examination and found evidence of asphyxia. Williams died of an AIDS-related illness before he could face the mounting evidence against him, which included physical links, accounts from escaped victims, and a pattern that showed that when he was in prison, the deaths ceased.

Wetli's apparent missed call 20 years ago casts doubt on excited delirium today, says Nashville attorney and National Police Accountability Project member Andrew Clark. "He's one of the guys who coined excited delirium, and he misapplied it to the work of a serial killer," Clark says. "How do we know his colleagues aren't making a similar mistake?"

Today, Wetli, who is in private practice in New Jersey, initially downplays his theory. He had to make a diagnosis so that the bodies could be buried, he says. But then it becomes clear he still believes that death-by-sex might have killed those women 20 years ago. "It's certainly a possibility," he says. "The guy never went to trial, so we'll never know. The police had a commendable theory in suspecting him. But believing in something, and proving it, is another story."


University of Miami's brain bank, located on the fourth floor of a drab building in downtown Miami, is all cramped quarters, depressing lighting, and towering filing cabinets. It has about as much evil-lair feng shui as a small-town library.

But this — if you believe critics — is where neurology professor Deborah Mash, Dr. Wetli's heir as the world's leading expert on excited delirium, bends over brain samples, presumably with a hunchbacked assistant by her side, and concocts the science fiction that is gaining acceptance throughout the world.

"She's just a charlatan," California attorney John Burton, who has turned taking on Taser into his career, says of Mash. "She's not a medical doctor, and she has no business opining on cause of death."

But the 56-year-old, dark-eyed neurologist, who wears pantsuits and a skeptical smile, doesn't act the villain when she meets with New Times. She calls a reporter "silly boy" in a chirpy drawl and commiserates with the anger she attracts. "Everybody's pointing fingers. Nobody's happy," she says of excited delirium deaths. "And the problem for medical examiners is that they have no anatomic cause of death. You're running around manic one minute, and the next minute you're dead."

It's not the first time Mash has been called a junk scientist. She made headlines in the 1990s when she championed the use of an organic African hallucinogen called ibogaine as a "vaccine" for cocaine dependence. Stonewalled from government funds, she opened an ibogaine clinic on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, and she says she's still continuing her research on the drug through private funding.

Mash has met similar resistance with excited delirium. The ACLU says it's used to "whitewash clear cases of police abuse," as spokesperson Eric Balaban puts it.

Founder of UM's groundbreaking Excited Delirium Education, Research and Information Center, Mash probably hasn't helped matters by providing paid expert testimony to Arizona-based Taser, International. The $2 billion company, which distributes stun guns to 40 countries, has successfully fended off dozens of wrongful death and product liability lawsuits.

Taser, which insists its guns are nonlethal, has become an enthusiastic lobbyist for excited delirium. Its reps distribute books about the subject at conferences for medical examiners and police chiefs, send information to medical examiners processing in-custody deaths, and even recently circulated a ready-made statement for police departments to use when somebody dies after being tased: "We regret the unfortunate loss of life. There are many cases where excited delirium caused by various mental disorders or medical conditions, that may or may not include drug use, can lead to a fatal conclusion."

The company has gone so far as to successfully sue medical examiner's offices, such as the one in Akron, Ohio, for listing Taser as a cause of death.

As stun guns have proven virtually unassailable in court, governments across the nation have adopted them en masse. In 2005, a Miami-Dade County grand jury recommended Taser use even in non-life-threatening situations. The finding cited excited delirium repeatedly, endorsing the use of Tasers "as a nonlethal method to incapacitate individuals" believed to be in the throes of the mania.

You could say the company appreciates Mash's work. "She's doing really cutting-edge research all on her own," says Taser spokesperson Steven Tuttle, "and it's very fascinating stuff."

In a 2009 deposition for a civil case against Taser, Mash admitted to earning $16,000 from Taser for excited delirium testimony the year before. In the court interview, she claimed to have forgotten how much the company paid her in previous years, and she recently refused to tell New Times how much Taser has paid her since. "I haven't done my taxes," says Mash, co-owner of an $868,000 North Bay Village house with ex-husband, former Miami-Dade Democratic Party chair, and mayor of the village, Joe Geller. The neurologist adds that Taser has never funded her research.

Mash insists she has testified only as an expert on excited delirium and has no opinion on the safety of stun guns. "Who cares about the Taser?" she squawks. "I don't care about the Taser, and I'll tell you why. Excited delirium was happening before the Taser. Excited delirium was happening in the 1800s, in Bell's institutionalized psych patients. If it happened with pepper spray, you'd say, 'Oh, it's the pepper spray that's killing them.'"

The same goes for restraints, hog ties, and baton strikes, Mash says. But the bottom line: "We have some cases where there were no police involved, and they still died."


London native Matthew Kahn came to South Beach, along with his boyfriend and three other friends, seeking to celebrate the turning of the millennium in debaucherous fashion. The 28-year-old got his hands on a bag of crystal meth and snorted it away. And then, his partner Dale later told cops, he simply went "mad."

In the early morning of January 3, 2000, Matthew ripped apart the bathroom in a guest room at the Clay Hotel on Española Way, slicing and bruising himself in the process. Just before 10 a.m., paramedics found him in the throes of continuous seizures. He died in the South Shore Hospital emergency room, with only about a tenth of the amount of cocaine or meth in his system needed to cause overdose.

The English tourist's death is one of about five in Miami-Dade's recent history that Dr. Mash has reason to tout. There were no cops involved, no struggle, and no blunt trauma. Matthew, like those Massachusetts asylum patients of scientific lore, simply expired.

The same is true for a 36-year-old bail bondsman named Nathaniel Blash, married father to two teenagers, who was found dead, wearing only boxer shorts and jewelry, lying face-up under an SUV on NE 53rd Street, with cocaine in his system and no signs of injury.

And 29-year-old Marlon Sankar, a clean-living truck driver who apparently turned to cocaine in his distress over a breakup. Authorities found him lying nude and bleeding in his Miami Springs front yard after he tore apart his bathroom with his bare hands. (One simple theory for all of the destroyed bathrooms: that's the most common place to use drugs.) Marlon claimed he had been robbed and beaten — which was later determined to be untrue — and he died suddenly at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

And 41-year-old Roosevelt Baker, who on a hot July afternoon was sprinting in and out of a South Miami RaceTrac gas station and yelling incoherently when he collapsed dead before police arrived.

In this handful of cases, neither family members nor lawyers contested Dr. Mash's cocaine-induced syndrome. It seems there was nothing else there to cause death.

As a police report put it in the case of 29-year-old Stephen Daugharty, who collapsed after running through his Homestead neighborhood while screaming that someone was trying to kill him: "His father said that he had a good heart, but he loved drugs more than life."


Even as the controversy has raged, Mash has spent the past decade studying patterns in the dissected brains of cadavers diagnosed with excited delirium. And she claims she is close to solving the mystery of why the disputed syndrome causes death.

Mash now believes certain people are genetically predisposed to excited delirium. Cocaine, methamphetamine, or in some cases, unmedicated mental illness is the spark that causes the "electrical event" transmitted from the brain to the heart.

"It's almost like a jack-in-the-box," Mash says of those prone to excited delirium. "The springs are fully wound. You can walk around your whole life like this and you're not going to pop your cork. But if you start smoking crack, and you've been hitting the crack pipe for a number of years, and then one day — dun-dun-dun — you have full-blown excited delirium."

The brain goes into hyperthermia, sizzling like bacon at temperatures of 105 degrees or higher, causing extremely sudden cardiac arrest, which is why many sufferers tend to rip off their clothes or seek shade under vehicles. "Medical examiners have described cases," Mash says, "where paramedics get to the scene and the room is trashed, there are ice cubes everywhere, and the subject is dead. That tells me that person was trying to cool down."

Mash believes some people might suffer "flicker episodes" — nonfatal spells — of excited delirium. If true, that could explain the flashes of strange behavior Xavia Jones exhibited months before being tased in Coral Gables, and it might even solve the mystery of those briefly afflicted patients at the 19th-century McLean Hospital who snapped out of their madness as quickly as they had been smitten by it.

However, there's still no way to identify those cursed with excited delirium until it's too late, Mash says. She responds it's "not [her] job" to give advice to cops or paramedics who encounter somebody in the throes of excited delirium. And she becomes glib when asked how people can protect themselves from dying of the syndrome: "Yeah, don't do drugs. If you're at risk for excited delirium — of course, we don't know who you are — no methamphetamine or cocaine for you. Start with that. And if you're a psychiatric patient, please keep your medicine compliant."

But Miami-Dade Fire Rescue paramedics have taken an unprecedented step in battling the body count: They are now equipped with excited delirium survival kits, designed to stop brains from hitting the griddle.

The new protocol was dreamed up by Miami-Dade chief medical examiner Dr. Bruce A. Hyma — an unabashed excited delirium bible-thumper and member of the Mash-founded UM research center — and fire-rescue officials. "We discussed how we can maybe abort this cycle and somehow save some lives," Hyma says. "The long and short of it is, if we can minimize the amount of physical exertion when this whole process starts, we can mitigate the amount of overheating that leads to death."

The plan, which has been in effect since 2007: First, a police officer tases the manic subject. Next, rescue workers quickly administer a nasal hit of Versed, a knockout drug commonly used on patients before surgery. Last, the subject is injected with iced saline to keep his or her temperature down. "The key is that when one of these events occurs," Hyma says, "it [should] be recognized as a medical emergency, not as a domestic altercation or a civil disturbance."

Hyma believes Miami-Dade is the only county to have such an approach in action, although "maybe others have copied it now and are using it." Hyma offers the unverified claim that 19 of 20 manic subjects hit with the Versed-and-saline cocktail have survived. One hitch: Because they lived, there's no way to prove those survivors were suffering from excited delirium in the first place.

Hyma hopes counties across the nation soon follow Miami-Dade's lead. Then comes the day, naturally, when paramedics are equipped with Tasers. Which is further gloom and doom for the civil rights set. Amnesty International's Jared Feuer sounds fatigued when told of the innovative approach: "So, wait, they tase them and then drug them?"


"Right in the midst there lay the body of a man sorely contorted and still twitching." —Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

It's apparent Linda Lewis misses being a mother. She attempts to gorge a reporter on soda, offers to make him lunch, and sternly advises him against speeding on his way back to Miami. Her Lantana home is a shrine with photos of her son, Donald Lewis, who lost his life at the age of 38 on the side of a road in October 2005. Every so often, she picks one up and shakes it. "Does this look like a drug addict to you?" she demands. "He could have been a model!"

The pictures display a John Mellencamp song come to life: shirtless and handsome, with an American flag tattoo on his bicep and a big, beef-eating smile.

It's clear there were two Donalds. There was the one Mom knew, the hard-working screen installer who made $40,000 a year, doted on his teenage son, and grew husky on her home-cooking.

Then there's the one police officers knew: arrested upward of 60 times on drug-possession and petty charges, one of those crackheads who swear to go clean but never do.

On October 19, 2005, Mugshot Donald won the battle for good. That's the day West Palm Beach cops found him writhing and incoherent along 45th Street, wrestled him to the ground, hogtied him, and then struggled in vain to revive him when he suddenly went limp.

A Cops TV crew captured some of his grunted final words: "The cops are killing me... Mother, I love you. Father, I love you. Jesus, I love you."

The Palm Beach medical examiner's ascribed cause of death: "sudden respiratory arrest following physical struggling restraint due to cocaine-induced excited delirium."

What's really happening in the unaired footage depends upon whom you ask. To Dr. Mash, Donald's paranoia and imperviousness to pain — he withstood chokeholds and hard knees to the back and neck from four large male police officers — would appear to be classic excited delirium. But to Linda Lewis, who forced herself to watch the video only once, those same methods used on an unarmed, handcuffed man mean something altogether different. "Excited delirium didn't kill my son," she says. "The police killed my son."

Lewis filed an excessive force suit against the City of West Palm Beach and the five officers on the scene. Dr. Michael Baden, former New York City chief medical examiner, testified that Donald had in fact died of "asphyxia caused by neck compression."

A federal judge ruled the police were protected from the lawsuit by "qualified immunity," and an Atlanta appeals court upheld the decision. This past February, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the suit without explanation.

But if excited delirium has become legal Kevlar for police departments and Taser International in wrongful death suits, a few bullets have recently pierced the vest.

In June 2008, a California jury ordered Taser to pay $6.2 million to the family of Robert Heston, who died after being stunned by Salinas Police, despite the company's defense that he had died of excited delirium. Attorney John Burton argued that the company should have known its guns could cause cardiac arrest, and issued a proper warning to police. Though the penalty was later reduced to $1 million, it was the first time Taser had lost in court.

And this May, the City of Fort Worth, Texas, paid a $2 million settlement to the family of 24-year-old Michael Patrick Jacobs, who died after being tased by cops last year. The settlement came with no admission of guilt, but an unprecedented step by Taser spoke volumes. The company issued a bulletin to police departments advising officers to avoid tasing people in the chest.

Taser spokesperson Tuttle, who maintains that his stun guns have still never been proven to be lethal, downplays that development. "The one thing we've always recommended is that the back would be a great shot because there's more nervous tissues and more muscles back there. We're going to have more problems if people aren't using it where we recommend it for maximum effectiveness."

The courtroom batterings of Taser and excited delirium do nothing for Linda Lewis, who has begged for "just an apology" from the officers involved in her son's death. There is no further recourse in her lawsuit against the City of West Palm Beach. Says her attorney, Ronald Kurpiers: "The police literally got away with murder."