Stun-gun Use Again Under Scrutiny in U.S. and England
The use of stun guns is again a hot topic after three high-profile incidents in the past week, one involving the nephew of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The use of stun guns is again a point of debate after three high-profile incidents over the past week, one involving the nephew of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Early Saturday morning, Northumbria Police in England fired two Taser stun-gun shots at fugitive gunman Raoul Moat —the 37-year-old bouncer and ex-convict who went on a rampage starting July 3, shooting his ex-girlfriend and killing her boyfriend.
Late Friday, police surrounded Moat, beginning a six-hour stand-off during which Moat held a sawed-off shotgun to his neck and head area. As police circled Moat and tried to coax him to give up, officers reportedly pounced on him and used stun guns in an attempt to subdue him, but Moat shot and killed himself.
Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the British police watchdog, has launched an investigation into the events surrounding Moat's death and how police handled the situation, including the use of Tasers. According to the Guardian, IPCC "will ask if the 50,000-volt charges from the stun gun prompted the former bouncer to fire his shotgun on himself after a six-hour confrontation with police."
Northumbria Police, according to the Telegraph, have refused to provide specifics on the Tasers' use . Northumbria Police's Acting Chief Constable Sue Sim said Saturday, however, that the Taser shots "did not prevent his death."
(For more SM coverage of stun guns, see "Appeals Court Finds Taser-Wielding Police Officer Used Excessive Force During Traffic Stop " and a review of "Taser Electronic Control Devices and Sudden In-Custody Death: Separating Evidence From Conjecture ," by Howard E. Williams.)
The involvement of Tasers in the fatal conclusion to Moat's week-long manhunt has rekindled the debate about stun guns.
"Human Rights charity Amnesty International has raised concerns about the safety of Tasers and considers them to be potentially lethal as well as open to abuse," reports the Telegraph. "However Taser International, which manufactures and distributes them in the UK, said they reduce injuries and save lives by providing police forces with a safer alternative to traditional firearms."
The Association of Chief Police Officers, according to the Guardian, support stun-gun use because it creates a deterrent effect.
Last week taser stun guns also factored into two incidents in the United States.
On Thursday, the nephew of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was tasered after he tried to flee a New Orleans area hospital after allegedly trying to commit suicide. After being admitted to West Jefferson Medical Center, 25-year-old Derek Thomas refused to cooperate with orderlies trying to get him into a hospital gown and tried to run away. A security guard then stepped in and punched Thomas, pulled out his hair, and then tasered him , Derek's sister Kimberly Thomas wrote in an e-mail to ABC 26. The electric shock that hit Thomas induced an epileptic seizure.
Kimberly's e-mail went on to state that "Security contests it was under doctor's orders to taser Thomas as opposed to sedating him for restraint even after prior knowledge of his epilepsy."
Also on Thursday, sheriff deputies in Boring, Oregon, stun-gunned an 87-year-old woman with dementia as she brandished a handgun on her front porch. Earlier the elderly woman pointed it at a worker trying to repair her water line.
'An officer hiding in the shrubbery around her rural home jolted the frail woman with a stun gun Thursday afternoon, and she collapsed unconscious," reports the Associated Press. "She died soon after in the hospital. The autopsy report said her heart disease was the cause of death."
Detective Jim Strovink of the Clackamas County sheriff's office told the AP that the police officers were entitled to use their firearms in this situation but relied on a less extreme use of force by using the stun gun.
"They did a commendable job in using a minimal amount of force," he said. The two deputies involved in the incident are currently on administrative leave.
♦ Photo by oldmaison/Flickr