POSTED: 12 JUNE 2008 - 1:00pm EST

Taser Loses 1st Product-Liability Suit

image above: Policeman can deliver deadly voltage to target's heart

;Jury Awards $6 Million

By Margaret Cronin Fisk on 7 June 2008 in

June 7 (Bloomberg) -- Taser International Inc., the largest stun-gun maker, lost a $6.2 million jury verdict over the death of a California man who died after police shot him multiple times with the weapon. The defeat is the first for Taser in a product- liability claim.

A San Jose, California, jury yesterday said Taser had failed to warn police in Salinas, California, that prolonged exposure to electric shock from the device could cause a risk of cardiac arrest. The jury awarded $1 million in compensatory damages and $5.2 million in punitive damages to the estate of Robert Heston, 40, and his parents. The jury cleared the police officers of any liability.

Taser previously won two trials, one over claims by a police officer injured in a training accident and the other involving a death in custody. Taser has settled at least 10 cases involving injuries to police officers during training, company lawyer Doug Klint told Bloomberg News last year. Taser said it will appeal the verdict.

``Certainly, this was a tragedy for the Heston family as well as for the officers involved,'' Klint said in a statement today. ``We, however, do not feel that the verdict is supported by the facts.''
Shot Multiple Times

The compensatory damage verdict will be reduced by the jury's finding that Heston was 85 percent responsible for his death, said family attorney John Burton. `That affects the compensatory damages, but not the punitives,'' he said in an interview.

``I think Taser's going to have to rethink its litigation strategy and its warning policies,'' Burton said. The jury awarded $5 million in punitive damages to Heston's parents and $200,000 in punitives to his estate.

Heston died on Feb. 20, 2005, after his father had called Salinas police because his son was ``acting strangely,'' and seemed to be on drugs, according to the lawsuit complaint. Salinas police shot Heston multiple times with the stun-gun, continuing to discharge their Tasers into him until he stopped moving, the lawsuit claims.

Heston went into cardiac arrest and died, his family said.

His parents sued Taser, alleging failure to warn of the dangers of the weapon, and Salinas police officers, claiming excessive force. The jury ``exonerated the police because they said the police didn't know repeated exposures could kill someone,'' Burton said.

Use of the Taser on Heston didn't cause his death, Klint said. Heston fit ``the well established symptom pattern for methamphetamine intoxication and associated excited delirium,'' a condition linked to sudden death in custody, Klint said.

The lawsuit is Heston v. City of Salinas, C 05-03658 JW, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).



POSTED: 10 MAY 2008 - 7:30pm HST

And you thought it was scary now?

image above: Taser mounted on assault rifle. Just what every cop should carry in a crowd.

by Juan Wilson on 10 May 2008

"In Houston, deadly force against civilians is remaining the same, but excessive force is increasing wildly." - Peter Gorman in The Fort Worth Weekly

Look above at this cute little number. An assault rifle with a built in taser. Something every police officer should have in case deadly force with an automatic weapon is too much to use in mixed company. What the hell is going on in this country?

The Kauai Police Department have no business buying assault rifles, riot shields, bulletproof vests or tasers. We do not need an armored mobile command center. This is not the police force this island wants.

If Chief Darryl Perry wants an effective police force for Kauai he should be seeking the trust of the public and learn what kind of support they need. His job is not supporting the storm troopers or protecting the big mainland corporations screwing us over.

image above: The latest Taser rifle - Wireless tasing projectiles. Click to see video.

Introducing the TASER XREP ? The eXtended Range Electronic Projectile. XREP is a self-contained, wireless projectile that fires from a standard 12-gauge shotgun. It delivers the same Neuro-Muscular Incapacitation (NMI) bio-effect as our handheld TASER X26, but can be delivered to a distance of up to 100 feet, combining blunt impact with field proven TASER NMI.



POSTED: 10 MAY 2008 - 7:30pm HST

Cardiologist says studies on tasers flawed

image above: The new pink purse-size personal electrocution device for milady

by Anna Mehler Paperny on 10 May 2008 in

Tasers pose potentially fatal health risks that studies proving their safety don’t take into account, a U.S. doctor told the B.C. taser inquiry yesterday.

San Francisco cardiologist and electrophysiologist Zian Tseng became interested in the use and effects of tasers after a taser-related death in San Francisco in January, 2005. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Tseng suggested tasers could induce cardiac arrhythmia.

“Shortly thereafter I was contacted by [Taser International, Inc.] directly to reconsider my statements to the media,” he said. “They even offered to … give me grant money for research.”

Much of the scientific justification for the safety of tasers is based on formulae that don’t examine their use in the “real world,” Dr. Tseng said.

“What’s not allowed in these theoretical calculations are worst-case scenarios,” he said. “Tolerability in healthy volunteers under optimal conditions does not mean safety.”

Many of the most commonly cited studies that show the devices are safe were financed by Taser International, Dr. Tseng said. Several of the authors of a 2005 study are Taser employees.

Many of these studies use simulated stun guns rather than tasers themselves, and a study on humans monitored only the subjects’ heart rate before and after the shock - not during it, which is when other studies have shown that heart rates were most dramatically disrupted.

The ability of tasers to disrupt a person’s heart rate fatally increases if the weapon’s barbs are embedded close to the heart or if the subject is affected by high adrenalin, heart disease, drug use or high blood acidity, Dr. Tseng said.

Several people have died after taser-related incidents in Canada since the devices were introduced in 1999, but no autopsy has found them responsible. Dr. Tseng said a fatal arrhythmia caused by a taser wouldn’t show up in an autopsy.

“If somebody dies and they find no cause of death, it’s almost certainly an arrhythmic death,” he said, adding that tasers can affect a person’s heartbeat long after the event.

Dr. Tseng said tasers may be able to play a role in law enforcement, but the way they’re used should be re-examined. He recommended police avoid tasering subjects near the chest area and carry “dummy-proof” automatic external defibrillators with them to ensure they can aid anyone who goes into cardiac fibrillation.

B.C. sheriff services Superintendent Paul Corrado and senior use-of-force instructor Greg Ducharme presented the B.C. sheriffs’ policy on taser use. They’ve been using tasers to assist in prisoner management since 2001.

Sheriffs don’t routinely carry tasers and have to be trained beforehand, Supt. Corrado said, but they aren’t told of any safety risks.

The presentations were part of a “study commission” headed by former Appeal Court judge Thomas Braidwood looking into taser use in the province. It’s the first part of a provincial taser inquiry; the second part will focus on the death of Robert Dziekanski after he was tasered in Vancouver International Airport in October, 2007.




POSTED: 10 MAY 2008 - 7:30pm HST

United Nations: Tasers are a form of torture

image above: Mansfiled Ohio Police Department has fun shooting each other with tasers. Sicko!

by David Morgan on 25 November 2007 in The CBS News

"The danger of Tasers is that they seem safe, they seem easy and therefore I think it's natural that police will be inclined to use them much more quickly than they would ever use a gun."

Larry Cox, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA

A United Nations committee said Friday that use of Taser weapons can be a form of torture, in violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Use of the electronic stun devices by police has been marked with a sudden rise in deaths - including four men in the United States and two in Canada within the last week.

Canadian authorities are taking a second look at them, and in the United States, there is a wave of demands to BAN them.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture referred Friday to the use of TaserX26 weapons which Portuguese police has acquired. An expert had testified to the committee that use of the weapons had "proven risks of harm or death."
"The use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use," the committee said in a statement.

"Well, it means that it's a very serious thing," Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox told CBS Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. "These are people that have seen torture around the world, all kinds of torture. So they don't use the word lightly."

Tasers have become increasingly controversial in the United States, particularly after several notorious cases where their use by police to disable suspects was questioned as being excessive. Especially disturbing is the fact that six adults died after being tased by police in the span of a week.

Last Sunday, in Frederick, Md., a sheriff's deputy trying to break up a late-night brawl tased 20-year-old Jarrel Grey. He died on the spot.

"I want to know what he did that was so bad," the victim's mother, Tanya James, said. "Did the deputy think that their life was in danger? Did he have a weapon?"
The death came just weeks after Frederick police used a Taser to subdue a high school student.

Black leaders held a rally Tuesday calling for the department to ban Tasers, at least until there is a clear policy on how they are used. The NAACP says it appears the sheriff's office is using Tasers routinely, rather than as a weapon of last resort.

Also this week, in Jacksonville, Fla., in two separate cases two men died after being stunned.

One suspect, who fled a car crash and tried to break into a nearby home, struggled with a policeman, prompting the officer to tase him three times. The man continued to fight, and tried to bite the officer, while he was being tased. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Another man died Tuesday after a Jacksonville officer pulled over his car. When the officer approached it, the man took off running. When the officer caught up with him, during a struggle, authorities say the officer used his Taser to subdue the suspect.

After being placed in the back of the police car the suspect became unresponsive. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Last Sunday, in New Mexico, 20-year-old Jesse Saenz died after Raton police used a Taser to subdue him. Police say Saenz was struggling and fighting with them as they attempted to take him into custody.

Saenz died after being transported to a county jail.

In Nova Scotia, a 45-year-old man who was jailed on assault charges jumped a counter and ran for the door as he was being booked. He died yesterday, about 30 hours after being shocked.

And in Vancouver, where Royal Candian Mounted Police have been criticized for their use of a Taser against an irate airline passenger at Vancouver Airport last month, 36-year-old Robert Knipstrom died in a hospital four days after police used a Taser, pepper spray and batons to subdue him.

Police earlier said Knipstrom was agitated, aggressive and combative with officers. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

More than a dozen people have died in Canada after being hit by Tasers in the last four years.

The reported incidents this week did not have cameras documenting the use of the Tasers, but in British Columbia, a tourist's video camera recorded the death of a man tased twice while in custody at the Vancouver Airport last month.

That horrifying video shows Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who spoke no English, become increasingly agitated. He was shocked twice, and then died.
The stun guns were denounced at memorial rallies in Vancouver and Toronto for Dziekanski.

Among the 1,000 people at the Vancouver rally was Paul Pritchard, who shot the video of the confrontation at the city airport.

The crowd gave a hero's welcome to Pritchard, who said he "saw the life drain out of a man's face" and heard "blood-curdling screams."

A rally in front of the Ontario legislature in Toronto drew several hundred people, including Bob Rae, a Liberal candidate in the next federal election.

Rae said the events leading up to Dziekanski's death must "never, ever be allowed to happen again."

The prominent - and sensational - reports of deaths following the use of Tasers has increased attention to their legitimacy, and prompted a bold defense by their manufacturer.

Taser International, based in Scottsdale, Az., released a statement following the Vancouver Airport incident saying no deaths have ever been definitively connected to what the company describes as: "the low-energy electrical discharge of the Taser."

That's 50,000 volts.

"The video of the incident at the Vancouver airport indicates that the subject was continuing to fight well after the TASER application," Taser International said. "This continuing struggle could not be possible if the subject died as a result of the Taser device electrical current causing cardiac arrest. [Dziekanski's] continuing struggle is proof that the Taser device was not the cause of his death.
"Specifically in Canada, while previous incidents were widely reported in the media as 'Taser deaths,' the role of the Taser device has been cleared in every case to date," Taser said.

While the medical questions about causes of death are not resolved, Cox said this is precisely why more study is needed. "Nobody really knows exactly why these people are dying, we only know that people are dying after they're tasered," he said. "It's nearly 300 people who have died in the United States - they're tasered, and then they die.

"It may be because they have a heart condition. It may be because they're on drugs. It may be because of some other factor that we don't know about. The important thing is, they are dying after they are tasered. That cannot be denied, no matter how you spin the language."

The devices are used by about 12,000 police departments, often in chaotic situations.

Retired police officer Paul Mazzei told Chen, "Minus the Taser, they would have to use an impact weapon like a baton, possibly pepper spray or in some extreme cases of violent behavior they might even have to use deadly force to control that individual."

In fact, in New Mexico earlier this month, the parents of a suicidal woman who was shot to death by Bernalillo County deputies two years ago are suing, contending that the police should have used Tasers instead of firearms.

Brittany Wayne was killed in her bedroom 23 seconds after police arrived.

And in Utah, a patrol car's dashboard camera caught an officer tasing a driver who refused to sign a speeding ticket. The officer is now under investigation, accused of being too quick on the draw.

Amid a growing outcry, civil rights groups are urging police to put down their Tasers until more research is done.

"The danger of Tasers is that they seem safe, they seem easy and therefore I think it's natural that police will be inclined to use them much more quickly than they would ever use a gun," Cox told Chen.

"Most of the cases we've looked at, there's been no weapon involved at all [on the part of the suspect], let alone a deadly weapon," Cox said. "So these are not situations where necessarily the police officer sees a threat."

In the Utah highway arrest, the unarmed motorist talks back to the officer and walks away before being stunned.

"The penalty for resisting arrest should not be death," Cox said.

see also:
Island Breath: Police Militarization 5/7/08
Island Breath: KPD Overreact in Hanapepe 5/6/08
Island Breath: Protect and Serve - Not terrify! 4/5/08
Island Breath: Lingle Plan for Police State

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