Phoenix Suspect Dies
After Three Taser Hits
"Taser International, the Scottsdale manufacturer of the stun
gun, maintains that its weapons have never caused a death or serious injury."

By Robert Anglen
The Arizona Republic
A man who Phoenix police say exhibited bizarre behavior and "incredible strength" died Friday morning after he broke into a Church's Chicken restaurant, chased out the employees and fought with officers, who shocked him three times with a Taser.
His death marks the second time in a week that someone died after a Taser shock and comes only two days after the mayor of Birmingham, Ala., ordered police there to stop using Tasers because of concerns over the stun gun's safety.
More than 130 people, including four men in the Valley, have died after police Taser shocks since 1999. Earlier this week, a 17-year-old boy in Texas died after being shocked three times by police responding to a call that the youth was high on drugs.
Taser International, the Scottsdale manufacturer of the stun gun, maintains that its weapons have never caused a death or serious injury.
But an ongoing investigation by The Arizona Republic shows that the gun has been cited by medical examiners in 17 cases.
The Phoenix suspect, whom police have not yet identified, was reportedly ranting and raving after forcing his way into the closed restaurant at Seventh and Grand avenues.
"He was slamming his head and body against the doors and windows," police spokesman Sgt Randy Force said Friday. "He started fighting with employees."
Employees Lock Man In
The three employees, who were attempting to close the restaurant, ran outside and locked the suspect in. Force said officers arrived minutes later and saw the man jumping on the counter and running into walls and windows.
When police unlocked the restaurant, the man reportedly charged at four officers.
"The officers were simply trying to take him into custody," Force said.
During the struggle, the man was reportedly shocked three times with a Taser, once in the arm, the leg and the lower back.
Although the Taser fires two electrically charged darts from distances of 21 feet, it can also be used as a hand-held device, in which officers push the probes of the stun gun directly against a suspect's skin.
Force said this was how the device was used against the suspect Friday.
"It was completely ineffective," he said, adding that the suspect continued to fight for almost 10 minutes before officers overpowered the man and placed him in restraints and in a mask to prevent him from spitting at officers.
Once the suspect stopped fighting, officers noticed that he had stopped breathing. Paramedics who had already been called to the scene performed CPR but were unable to revive the man. He was pronounced dead at 1:07 a.m.
Force said an autopsy was being preformed Friday but it will be several months before it is known whether the man had alcohol or drugs in his system.
Force said the sequence of events leading to the man's death is typical of violent suspects who fight with police and then die in custody, whether a Taser is used by police or not.
Ongoing Investigation
An ongoing investigation by The Arizona Republic has identified 132 deaths in the United States and Canada after police Taser use since 1999. Of those, medical examiners cited the Taser in 17 deaths.
A Taser was ruled as a cause of death in three cases and a contributing factor in 10 cases. In four cases, medical examiners said they could not rule out Tasers as a cause of death.
More than 7,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States have armed their officers with Tasers. But a growing number of deaths has left many cities rethinking Taser purchases as police officials, city council members and state legislators raise concerns about the need for more independent safety studies on the stun gun.
Taser stock, which soared last year, dropped nearly two-thirds this year after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Arizona attorney general announced separate inquiries into safety claims made by company officials.
Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid ordered police to stop using Tasers this week after the July 7 death of a 41-year-old man in the city jail.
Although Kincaid said his decision was not motivated by the death, the mayor said he is convinced that there is a need for safety studies on non-lethal weapons.



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