Thursday, February 10, 2005

Cardiac arrest in a 14 year old after being Taser-ed

AP reported (via Kansas City Star) yesterday that Little Rock, Arkansas police burst into a toddler's birthday just as the cake was about to be cut. The target of the raid was the two year old birthday girl's 21 year old aunt who was hosting the party and also dealing drugs over the phone.
"The first thing I saw was the birthday table and cake, so I yelled for everyone to put away their guns," Shannon Hills Police Chief Richard Friend said. "You could see they had a nightmare-come-true. Everyone just froze and looked at me. The parents started crying and then the kids started crying."
It's a good thing they had guns instead of tasers since there was probably little inclination to shoot toddlers (we hope). But a taser? Who knows.

In Chicago a 14 year old got the 50,000 volt taser treatment and promptly went into cardiac arrest (AP via USA Today). The boy was reported regaining consciousness but not yet able to talk. Admittedly this was not a pint-sized 14 year old. He was reported to be 6' 2" and over 200 pounds. The taser was used when he allegedly attacked three employees of his group home. When he lunged at an officer, the device, which shoots a dart connected to a wire, discharged 50,000 volts into his body to disable him.

Given the circumstances, the use of the taser was probably predictable. But the serious consequences, which Taser International steadfastly denies is related to their device, are now being reported with sufficient frequency that the status of tasers as an acceptable way to subdue subjects must now be questioned.

Amnesty International, among others, is doing just that:
(Washington, DC)—Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) is calling for US law enforcement to stop using TASERs on children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities unless those individuals pose an immediate threat to themselves, the life of an officer or a member of the public. AIUSA renews its call following the shooting on Monday of a 14-year-old Chicago boy, who was unconscious for two days after being shot with a TASER and then going into cardiac arrest. There have been other recent new reports regarding children, seniors, and person with disabilities being shot with TASER guns.

"The gun's manufacturer tested TASERs on a few dogs and pigs and has extrapolated from that limited research that the product is safe to use on children, seniors, and people with disabilities," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director, AIUSA. "Before those claims can be taken seriously, parents should know the potential effects of being shot with a TASER – that it might affect their child's development. The families of people dealing with mental illness or neurological disorders have a right to know how a 50,000 volt shock will affect a loved one with Alzheimer's or Multiple Sclerosis."

Dr. Schulz went on to say, "TASER abuse in the US has risen to a level that now demands the immediate attention of lawmakers. Instead of being an alternative to lethal force, police departments are clearly using TASERs in situations where they would have never used guns, batons, pepper spray, or any other type of force. These guns were not designed to be used cavalierly on nonviolent, vulnerable populations."

In November 2004, Amnesty International released a report, Excessive and Lethal Force?: Deaths and Ill-treatment Involving Police Use of TASERs, that documents 74 TASER-related deaths in the US and Canada and finds that the widespread use of TASERs has dangerously expanded the boundaries of "acceptable" levels of force.
For more information, please visit:
A copy of Amnesty International's report on TASERs here.