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Today in Tasering: And The Beat Goes On

scarshapedstar's picture

Another day, another guy coincidentally dies after being Tased repeatedly.

Via digby:

A Statesville man died after being shocked multiple times by Tasers at the Iredell County jail over the weekend, sources say.

Anthony Davidson, 29, was unresponsive when he was taken to Iredell Memorial Hospital Saturday afternoon. He was put on life support and died late Sunday night, police said.

His death is the second Taser-related death this year in the Charlotte area. In March, 17-year-old Darryl Wayne Turner, died after Charlotte-Mecklenburg police used a Taser on him at a Food Lion store in Charlotte.

[...]

The incident began about 3 p.m. Saturday at a Statesville grocery store. Employees at the Food Lion on N.C. 115 told police they tried unsuccessfully to stop Davidson from leaving the store with a full cart of groceries after his debit card was declined. He left the parking lot without the groceries, police said.

When officers caught up with Davidson a short time later, he was carrying an Applebee's gift card from the store that hadn't been paid for, Anderson said.

Officers took Davidson to the Iredell County Jail where he appeared before a magistrate on a larceny charge. Davidson was behaving abnormally from the time officers first encountered him, Anderson said.

While being booked, Davidson became “physically aggressive and was communicating loudly,” Anderson said. That's when officers used one or more Tasers to get him “back under control,” police said.

A nurse who screened Davidson afterward told officers he needed further medical screening because he appeared to be “under the influence of some type of impairing substance.”

Paramedics took Davidson to the hospital Saturday. His condition continued to decline and he was unresponsive when he arrived, Anderson said. He was admitted to intensive care and was taken off life support about 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

[...]

Davidson's family said they weren't aware of him using or having a problem with drugs or alcohol... They said police told them Davidson fell while being subdued and may have hit his head.

An autopsy is scheduled later this week, Moore said.

Last month, the officer involved in the Charlotte Taser incident was cleared of criminal charges [So much for the Milgram Dodge, eh?] but was suspended for five days [wow!] for violating the department's policy when he continuously shocked Darryl Turner for 37 seconds, a factor that contributed to his death.

They tased him to "get him back under control". Everything I've been told by Taser defenders leads me to believe - and I have no reason to doubt them - that they think Tasers are necessary to prevent the use of lethal force.

There is no discernible reason why lethal force should have been used to "control" an unarmed suspect who is "physically aggressive" (can we see the video?) and "communicating loudly". I'm pretty sure everyone can agree on that. So why the hell did they Tase him? I am sympathetic to the argument that a Taser is less harmful than a billy club to the head, but the guy was in handcuffs, for christ's sake.

As Atticus Finch said to Jem, "Never point a gun at a man unless you intend to shoot him, and never shoot a man unless you intend to kill him," or something to that effect. A Taser may be less likely to kill than a gun but certain people will die from it and that fact seems to be ignored an awful lot in these discussions. Shooting someone with a Taser should be a direct, 1:1 substitute for shooting them with a bullet, without exception.

The naked guy standing in the shower with a towel did not require a bullet. Baron Pikes didn't require a bullet. The guy who wouldn't sign his speeding ticket didn't require a bullet. The Polish guy in the Vancouver airport didn't require a bullet. The kid with a broken back did not require a bullet. This guy did not require a bullet. I'm not convinced anyone who has died after being Tased has required a bullet. I'm sure that it makes the cops' jobs easier and safer for themselves if they Tase more people instead of wrestling them to the ground; I don't care. I'd like my job to be easier and safer, but I don't get to make the rules. The police do not have a right to a completely submissive citizenry and they should be prevented from trying to create one.

And if you don't think that's an accurate description of this cavalier attitude:

Taser-related deaths across North Carolina prompted a coalition to study Taser use. The N.C. Taser Safety Project surveyed the state's 100 sheriff's offices and found that 70 issued Tasers to some or all of its deputies, but many agencies lack clear policies about when and how they should be used.

...then what is? Replace "Tasers" with "guns" and it sounds like a story from Baghdad, doesn't it?

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bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Is that your argument?

Tasers are not intended to be, and never should be used as, a substitute for lethal force. What they are, where they should be used, is as an interim stage along the Force Continuum at just less than lethal.

If you're at the point where you have to draw a gun, the situation is already out of control and trying to use a Taser instead is a very dangerous choice. A Taser provides an option short of a firearm that is, by every study done so far, less lethal and less injurious than any other direct contact method yet devised.

Less lethal than pepper spray, less lethal than a baton, less lethal even than fists. Fewer injuries to those being arrested, and fewer injuries to officers. Multiple studies have all shown this, and no study has yet demonstrated an increased risk. While nothing is perfect once violence begins, Tasers are, on balance, a better choice than any other direct contact method.

Can they be abused? Surely. So can anything else. So what? A good cop, carrying a baton and pepper spray, wearing steel-toe shoes, trained to use hands and feet as lethal weapons and equipped with a firearm, isn't going to be suddenly transformed into a hearless murderous monster because a Taser is added to the mix.

The police do not have a right to a completely submissive citizenry and they should be prevented from trying to create one.
Once you are placed under arrest, yes they do. We, collectively, have decided to give law enforcement the authority to arrest and the power to enforce that authority. Once placed under arrest, as Mr. Davidson was, you are in fact required by law to cooperate and comply.

Lessons learned:

1) Don't steal a bunch of shit from a store.

2) Once arrested and surrounded by cops, don't become belligerent and assault them. They will kick your ass, and the chances of a bad outcome for you are greatly increased.

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

Once arrested and surrounded by cops, don’t become belligerent and assault them.

Let me see the video. I saw the one of the guy in Vancouver, who was basically described by the RCMP as Charles Manson on crack and PCP, flinging loose objects with deadly force like the Hulk. He looked to all other observers like a frustrated guy sitting in a swivel chair. I suspect that this man's handcuffed "physical aggression" will be similarly underwhelming.

And you seem to sidestep the question of why people who are by no means "under arrest" are being Tased. The guy with a speeding ticket was not under arrest, and neither was the child with a broken back, and yet the Captains speak incessantly of the need to "control" them so that they will "obey". Why? They are not accused of a crime and are therefore entitled to the full rights of any other citizen, including the right not to be brutalized.

For the record, yes, I have heard the argument made that "if the cops didn't have Tasers, they would have had to cap his ass." This is typically used in cases where the Tased did not die of cardiac arrest.

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

If you think I miss the mark, just point it out; I'll back up and take another aim.

We seem to keep circling around the same conversational pattern on this topic. I think of it as a social policy decision, where evidence of harm versus benefit should be enough to settle the matter and then leave any issues of abuse to be dealt with as any other color of authority abuses would be. You seem unwilling to engage on that basis, and instead return to individual case reports - some of which are surely horrific and unjustified - and generalize from those anecdotes to try and settle the overall policy question.

I confess I am boggled at how to resolve that difference in approach.

You do know that the Utah driver ended up pleading guilty on the speeding charge; if he had just signed the damn ticket in the first place, since he was guilty, nothing untoward would have occurred. As to your assertion about im being under arrest, the correct term for his status would be "in custody", which I should have included in my exposition above - sorry for the oversight. He was deemed to be in custody from the moment the officer turned on his lights. He was ordered out of the vehicle, and then ordered to turn around. When he walked away and reached into his pocket, he was tasered - that's what will happen. He also settled his damage suit with the state for $40K, enough to settle up with his lawyers and far less for the state than the cost of going to court. He also agreed to a finding that the neither the officer or state was at fault.

All of the other cases you cite, the unfortunate people involved were all either in custody or under arrest. It isn't required that rights be read or any announcement be made for an arrest to have occurred.

We are agreed that the boy with the broken back seems unjustified and unacceptable, conditionally as you also wish to assert. If the facts are as reported, then I see no reason why he should have been tasered. The case in Vancouver involved a man who was clearly out of control, for reasons unknown. He had been violent, he refused commands and was tasered just once - or maybe it was twice - which he clearly survived. His death was certainly sad and unfortunate, but I doubt the taser had anything to do with it; he died the same way dozens of people die each year while being taken into custody, from a very poorly understood phenomenon that leads to death whether or not a taser is employed.

Auntie Meme's picture
Submitted by Auntie Meme on

The high voltage of tasers has made me curious about the the power of the electric chair and ECT. In researching this, I came across the writings of Darius Rejali, among them this.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

that's why when max-sec prisoners are moved they're not just in cuffs. They're in shackles, and ankle shackles, with a chain connecting same. They're still not incapacitated, but they're hindered enough to let the average citizen see trouble before it takes him/her out.

I'm no fan of tasers.
I'm no fan of battery cables and wet tennis shoes, either, but nobody writes horror stories about the injured/killed by trying to jump start a car or motorcycle or pickup in the rain.

Tasers can deliver a voltage sufficient to interrupt the electric cycle of the heart.

They don't have to do so, though.

Misuse is at fault -- on both sides.


We can admit that we’re killers … but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

1 John 4:18