The tragic death of an 18-year old graffiti artist in Miami Beach earlier this month is sure to spark renewed debate over the safety of stun guns that deliver electric shocks to incapacitate their targets. A related question concerns when it is reasonable to use the stun guns if they should be used at all.
An investigation last year conducted by Amnesty International uncovered at least 500 deaths since 2001 that occurred after a person was Tasered. At least 60 of these deaths were directly attributed to the use of a Taser as a cause or contributing factor; while other causes were found for the other deaths, the Taser shock may still have played a factor.
Amnesty had previously conducted a study in 2008 of hundreds of Taser deaths and there found that 90% of the victims were unarmed at the time, and many received multiple shocks at the hands of the police. Most recently, the American Heart Association released a paper which unequivocally states that a shock from a Taser can lead to cardiac arrest or death.
What is a Taser?
A Taser is a device manufactured by Taser, Inc. which delivers an electrical shock, either by applying the device directly to the person or by firing a pair of barbed wires which lodge in the skin and deliver pulses of electricity. In either case, the victim is rendered unable to control his or her bodily movements for a period of time after the shock is delivered. Other companies, such as Stinger, manufacture similar stun guns as well, although the Taser name has entered the lexicon due to its widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies across the country.
Are They Safe Enough?
Are Tasers safe enough to be used, or should the police use other methods to subdue a violent suspect? The makers of Tasers argue that their devices are safer than other methods, such as physical force with fists or batons, pepper spray and mace.
One major concern is that since Tasers are marketed as nonlethal and safer approaches, they appear to be overused as a means of pacifying or controlling people who are not even acting violently toward the police. Our hearts go out to the family of Israel Hernandez-Llach, the young man who lost his life in Miami Beach on August 9th.
It may prove necessary to take steps to make Tasers safer or improve the instructions and training that police officers receive before using such devices, and legal action may be necessary to force a change in such behavior before any more needless deaths occur. If you or a family member is harmed by a Taser or similar device, contact the Law Team at Fetterman & Associates to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney at our offices in West Palm Beach or Port St. Lucie.