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Taser sadism on tape

The abuse by law enforcement of the use of the “non-lethal” Taser device is nothing short of torture in many cases, where police pull out this tool too quickly, and unnecessarily, often when the victim has already been subdued. Other times the problem is that the level of use is outrageous — multiple applications of the device on a person after they are down and no threat to law enforcement.

The stories of this sadism are well-documented at this point — so many videos are turning up showing the misapplication of the Taser that you have to ask: where is the outrage?

Case #1: Gwinnett County, GA, 2004. Watch the Taser torture and murder of 31-year-old Deacon Frederick Williams in this police video. There are a number of reports about this event, where Williams was Tased five times in 43 seconds, four minutes after he was taken into custody.

He was handcuffed behind his back and in leg restraints, following an epileptic seizure at his home; an ambulance was called by his wife and son, but the police arrived first. His last words were: “Don’t kill me, man. Don’t kill me.”

No charges have been filed in the torture / murder; the County DA refused to show this video to a Grand Jury, even though another man in custody was murdered just months earlier after being tortured with a TASER by the same police.

More incidents after the jump.Case #2, Florida 2007: One of the Taser incidents that received a great deal of ink and blogosphere attention, (unlike the murder of Mr. Williams) was the University of Florida “Don’t Tase, me, bro'”  incident, where a student was Tased at a John Kerry town hall event in September 2007.

Case #3, Utah: And how about this a Utah Highway Patrol officer tasers a driver in front of the man’s pregnant wife and baby — over an alleged speeding ticket. The video was taken from the police dash cam.

You can see an interview with the victim, Jared Massey by CBS’s Harry Smith, here.

Case #4, NYC:I blogged earlier this year about the heinous Tasing of the son of a NYPD officer at a community barbecue. The young man was not charged with anything, yet he was tased by cops four times no apparent reason, and beaten 15 times with a nightstick and choked.

Video: via Police Brutality Blog.Retired Lt. Alexander Lombard said his son, Alexander Lombard 3rd, 17, was beaten by cops after they arrived at a “community sponsored” barbecue at 126th St. and Park Ave. last month.

“He’s truly dismayed by the whole thing,” Lombard said, standing next to his son in front of Police Headquarters in lower Manhattan. “He grew up with cops. He was raised to trust cops.”

But Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said in a statement that a police sergeant “employed a Taser against the suspect’s ankle” to subdue him after responding to a large disturbance at about 3:30 a.m.

…”The mere fact that he was hit with a Taser four times,” Leader said, “and there’s no resisting arrest charge, no criminal possession of a weapons charge – it’s evident to me that this incident did not justify use of a stun gun.”

Case #5, Trottwood, Ohio:And if that isn’t bad enough, here a pregnant woman is pushed onto the ground on her stomach and Tased on the back of her neck.

The FBI is investigating after a Trotwood police officer used a Taser on a pregnant woman on November 18. Trotwood Public Safety Director Michael Etter said the woman arrived at the police department asking to give up custody of her 1-year-old son. Surveillance video from the police department shows the woman try to leave with the child. The officer then grabs her coat in an effort to get her to stop. Etter said the officer was doing what he thought was in the best interest of the 1-year-old boy.


Case #6, Vancouver, BC:This isn’t just an all-American phenomenon either. In an incident north of the border, Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers killed a man when he was Tased on October 14 at Vancouver International Airport. One officer is heard to say, “Hit him again. Hit him again.”

The 10-minute video recording clearly shows four RCMP officers talking to Robert Dziekanski while he is standing with his back to a counter and with his arms lowered by his sides, but his hands are not visible. About 25 seconds after police enter the secure area where he is, there is a loud crack that sounds like a Taser shot, followed by Dziekanski screaming and convulsing as he stumbles and falls to the floor.

Another loud crack can be heard as an officer appears to fire one more Taser shot into Dziekanski. As the officers kneel on top of Dziekanski and handcuff him, he continues to scream and convulse on the floor.

Police have said only two Taser shots were fired, but a witness said she heard up to four Taser shots. A minute and half after the first Taser shot was fired Dziekanski stops moaning and convulsing and becomes still and silent.

Shortly after, the officers appear to be checking his condition and one officer is heard to say, “code red.”

…[R]etired superintendent Ron Foyle, a 33-year veteran of the Vancouver police who saw the video tape, said he didn’t know “why it ever became a police incident.” “It didn’t seem that he made any threatening gestures towards them,” Foyle said.

The man who shot the video, Paul Pritchard, had the recording taken by police, and it was not returned until he threatened to sue after Pritchard feared a coverup.

The number of these incidents that are documented on tape is alarming (just surf over to YouTube or Google Video and type in “taser”); one can only imagine how many there are where there’s no videotape.

I’m not arguing for the elimination of the use of the Taser as a tool of law enforcement, but what will it take for officials around the country to agree that consistent training on how and when to use a taser is necessary? Why isn’t there some kind of standard certification? Until there’s some kind of effort to gain the confidence of the public that such devices will be used appropriately,  deployment in the field of these devices should be rethought.


* Taser Nation: Are Cops Using Tasers Too Often?

* Security guard uses taser on man holding a baby

* Ohio police officer uses stun gun to subdue a handcuffed woman

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding