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Friday, December 17, 2004

Tasers Will Save Lives, Deputy Coroner Says

December 17, 2004
By Jeff Gray, The Globe And Mail

Ontario''s deputy chief coroner, James Cairns, urged the Toronto Police Services Board to expand the use of tasers yesterday, saying they had not caused a single death but instead had saved countless lives in police standoffs.

"I am absolutely convinced tasers will save lives instead of taking lives. And I hope some day, if I am in the position, please taser me before you shoot me," Dr. Cairns told the board at its meeting yesterday.

Dr. Cairns, who has closely studied data on at least 50 deaths that have occurred after a taser was used by various police forces, also slammed the board''s recent decision to get the city''s medical officer of health, who specializes in communicable diseases, to rule on the safety of the controversial stun guns.

"If I had SARS, I''d certainly want to see the medical officer of health. I consider this a matter of forensic medicine...We''re the ones that investigate these deaths, " Dr. Cairns said.

Dr. Cairns''s surprise appearance at the board, at the invitation of Police Chief Julian Fantino, who has been pushing or the purchase of more tasers, appeared to catch board chairwoman Pam McConnell off guard.

"I am raising this issue again because I do not want to have the unnecessary death of a mentally ill or emotionally disturbed person on my conscience," Chief Fantino told the board yesterday. "Nor do I want one of our police officers to have to live with the knowledge that he or she had killed someone whose life could have been saved."

Dr. Cairns said his office had amassed mountains of independent data on tasers in the course of investigating three cases in Ontario this year in which people died after being stunned by the devices.

In all of those cases, and in another six across the country, tasers were cleared of causing the deaths, he said. The people who end up on the wrong end of these stun guns, which shoot a barb at the suspect and deliver an electrical jolt through a wire, are often in a state of "excited delirium," Dr. Cairn said.

In this state, caused by psychiatric illness, overdoses of cocaine or other drugs, or alcohol withdrawal, people are "impervious to pain" and immune to other police restraint methods such as pepper spray, he said. They have "unbelievable physical strength" and tend to be paranoid and violent.

If people in this state do not receive immediate medical treatment, they will likely die of a heart attack on their own, Dr. Cairns said. And if the person is armed or is considered a threat, police officers often have little choice but to use bullets. If a taser is on hand, they can be subdued and taken to hospital, he said.

Dr. Cairns dismissed concern expressed in articles in The New York Times and in a report from the human-rights group Amnesty International on tasers, saying the overwhelming evidence, from independent studies in British Columbia, Australia and Britain, is that the risk of death from a taser was extremely low.

Currently, only members of Toronto''s tactical squad are equipped with tasers. Chief Fantino has asked that frontline sergeants be equipped with them, something that is allowed under provincial rules. But the board deferred the decision until April at its last meeting. Dr. Cairns said yesterday that all officers should eventually be given tasers.

After hearing from the deputy chief coroner yesterday, the police board agreed to try to deal with the taser issue next month if possible.

Chief Fantino also presented the board yesterday with a report on a pilot project conducted by his force on a new model of taser, the X-26, which is more effective but uses a lower dose of electricity than the M-26, currently approved for use. The newer stun gun also keeps track each time it is fired, to guard against possible police abuse.

Yesterday, the board unanimously passed a policy forbidding leaders of the police union to endorse political candidates in election campaigns, threatening them with police discipline charges if they do.

Toronto Police Association President Dave Wilson repeated a vow to defy the ban, saying it was meant to "muzzle" his union. "You can charge me when the time comes, and I will fight this policy in the courts," he told the board.

Tasers will save lives, deputy coroner says

December 17, 2004
Jeff Gray, Globe and Mail

Toronto police board urged to buy more stun guns, told medical safety review not needed

After you read the headline story above (Tasers will save lives, deputy coroner says), consider this: Deputy Coroner Dr. Cairns admitted to me in a March 2005 telephone conversation that he had NOT seen autopsy or pathology results on my brother, nor had he seen autopsy or pathology results on any of the other people who had died outside of Ontario, before publicly concluding that tasers had been cleared of causing the deaths. I had heard him say that on CBC's Ontario Today, as Toronto police considered adding more tasers to their arsenal. This was before the cause of death had even been released in many cases. On the telephone, Dr. Cairns said to me: “it is my personal opinion that, unless a person dies immediately after being shot with a Taser – not 5 minutes later, not 30 minutes later, but immediately – then the Taser did not kill them.” I asked Dr. Cairns, on behalf of my family, to please refrain from including my brother’s death in his statistics, until such time as the official cause of death had been released. He did not respect my request. He went on to publicly declare on radio and television and in newspaper reports that:

None of the Taser-related deaths in Canada can be attributed to the Taser stun gun being used;

All of the deaths in Canada were determined to have been caused by cocaine-induced excited delirium;

All of the deaths in Canada were caused by cocaine overdoses;

Tasers have been cleared of causing any of the deaths in Canada; and

All nine (at that time) people would have died anyway.

To date, none of the deaths in Canada for which final results are available has been attributed to the taser (several have in the US). Nor, in the final analysis, was my brother's death. However, I know that Dr. Cairns has been consulted for his opinion on deaths which have occurred in RCMP custody over the last couple of years, including two that I'm aware of: Paul Saulnier in Digby, Nova Scotia and Kevin Geldart in Moncton, New Brunswick. Neither was attributed to the taser. Dr. Cairns has seemingly become Canada's "expert", the "go-to-it-guy" on tasers and their non-relation to the deaths of people. He also makes himself available for speaking engagements at Taser International and excited delirium-related conferences. You can bet that he's received one of the hundreds of pamphlets the weapon's manufacturer mails out to coroners each year to help them identify excited delirium.
See also: Coroner finds man didn't die from taser, where Dr. Cairns said that had Peter Lamonday died in the parking lot where he absorbed the shots, the powerful stun gun could be considered responsible.
See also: How can you justify using a taser 12 times - "After this huge fight that often goes on, they suddenly go quiet and tranquil. It seems as though they're getting a second wind. In fact, they're not. They're dying at that point," says Cairns.
See also: Drugs, not taser, caused Kingston man's death - A mere two days after Samuel Truscott's death, Dr. Cairns was able to "state categorically that the Taser did not play any role whatsoever in his death."
See also: Fantino gets Taser issue revived

Fantino gets taser issue revived

December 17, 2004
Catherine Porter, The Toronto Star

The Toronto Police Services Board will reconsider arming more officers with stun guns after a top forensics expert insisted Tasers can save lives.

Ontario's Deputy Chief Coroner James Cairns told board members that Tasers are typically used to subdue delirious people who could die if not taken to hospital and treated.

Without access to Tasers, police are forced to use guns, as people in such a state are almost superhuman and impervious to pepper spray and clubbing with batons, Cairns said.

"There is evidence that the Taser has definitely saved lives," Cairns told the board, which only last month voted against equipping about 500 more officers with stun guns until further medical research is done.

Board member Alok Mukherjee said he had been "almost convinced" to change his vote on the stun guns, and the board unanimously decideed to readdress the issue again next month, rather than in the spring.

"We all want to save lives," Mukherjee said.

Three months before he's being forced to leave his command, Fantino said he was so shocked by the board's decision on Tasers last month that he was raising the issue again and had asked Cairns to address the board.

"I do not want to have the unnecessary death of a mentally ill or emotionally disturbed person on my conscience," Fantino said. "Nor do I want one of our police officers to have to live with the knowledge that he or she had to kill someone whose life could have been saved."

The Toronto Police Service currently has 24 Tasers, limited to the tactical and emergency-response units. Fantino has requested the board buy 539 more for his front-line supervisors, at a $1.1 million price tag.

The guns are used by police forces across North America to disable aggressive people by shocking them with a current of up to 50,000 volts.

Cairns dismissed Amnesty International Canada's contention that the stun guns have precipitated the deaths of nine Canadians over the past year and a half.

Going one by one through each fatal case, Cairns said they all had been caused by cocaine overdoses. Although the subjects had been shocked with a Taser, the weapon didn't cause the deaths, he said. All nine would have died anyway, he maintained, and in two cases they were almost saved by Tasers, as police could quickly get them to hospital.

"Tasers give a person an electrical shock. People who die from an electrical shock do so immediately," he said, adding that in all cases the victims died hours after being hit with a Taser.

Cairns' report will go to the city's medical officer of health, who has been asked to report back to the board in January. If approved then, Fantino said he was sure he could find $1.1 million in next year's already tight police budget proposal.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Security nominee got rich on tasers - Kerik's relationship with stun-gun firm earned him millions

December 10, 2004
Eric Lipton, New York Times

Washington -- Just five years ago, Bernard Kerik was facing lawsuits from a condominium association and bank over delinquent payments owed on a modest New Jersey condo he then owned. Today, he is a multimillionaire, the result of a lucrative partnership with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and an even more profitable relationship with a stun-gun manufacturer.

If he is confirmed to the post of homeland security secretary for which he was nominated by President Bush last week, he will oversee an enormous department that does business with some of the companies that helped make him wealthy.

The list of income sources that transformed the former New York City police commissioner into a wealthy man is a diverse one, including a best- selling autobiography, speeches around the United States and service on corporate boards. Kerik even sold the rights to make a feature film about his rags-to-riches life to Miramax.

But it is the relationship Kerik has had since the spring of 2002 with Taser International, a Scottsdale, Ariz., manufacturer of stun guns, that has by far been the biggest source of his newfound wealth, earning him more than $6.2 million in pre-tax profits through stock options he was granted and then sold, mostly in the last month.

Kerik benefited largely because the company has enjoyed an extraordinary surge in its stock. Stock options that were worth very little at the time became extremely valuable, in part because of the sales pitch that Kerik made on the company's behalf to other police departments.

The sales driving Taser's growing profits come mostly from local and state governments. But while Kerik has served on the company's board, it has made an aggressive push to enter markets either regulated or controlled by the federal government, most notably the Department of Homeland Security. A White House spokesman said Kerik would resign from the board and sell his remaining stock if confirmed.

At one point, Kerik referred Taser executives, seeking more federal business, to a Customs and Border Protection official of the Homeland Security Department, according to the company president.

"Anyone in a federal law enforcement position is a potential customer," said Thomas Smith, president and co-founder of Taser International, who said he had hired Kerik because of his prominence as New York's police commissioner. "And we are going to continue to go after that business."

Kerik declined, through a spokeswoman, to discuss his work for Taser. Although he is required for at least one year to recuse himself from decisions involving his former clients or partners, that will not prohibit the Homeland Security Department from doing business with those companies. A White House spokesman said Kerik would adhere to "the highest ethical standards" and ensure there are no conflicts of interest.

In 2002, Taser International sought to significantly expand its sales to law enforcement agencies, and it needed a high-profile former public official who could serve as a spokesman for its product, said Smith. Kerik, he added, was the perfect candidate, having served as both corrections and police commissioner. Kerik's role working alongside Giuliani on Sept. 11, 2001, had also earned him a national reputation, particularly in the law enforcement world.

From the moment he joined Taser's board in May 2002, Kerik became one of Taser's chief spokesmen before police officials.

Kerik also defended the guns against criticism that their use had contributed to the deaths of suspects who have been fired upon by police.

Amnesty International said there had been 74 Taser-related deaths in North America since 2001 and called for a suspension on the use of the device until its safety was further investigated. An Air Force laboratory that conducted research on the guns said last month that it could not determine whether they were safe, in contrast to statements from Taser that the laboratory had found its weapons generally safe and effective.

The Taser publicity campaign has been an enormous success. More than 6, 000 police departments and prisons today use Tasers, compared with only a handful five years ago, and Taser International's sales have climbed from $6.9 million in 2001 to about $68 million this year.

Kerik will have to be approved by the Senate before he takes control of the Homeland Security Department. Several members of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs, which must approve his nomination, declined to comment when asked about Kerik's private sector work.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Is 'non-lethal' taser deadly?

December 1, 2004

Willie Smith was high on cocaine the night he pinned his wife down and told her he wanted to get the devil out of her. She broke free, crawled out of their bedroom window and called for help. Auburn police say that when they came and tried to arrest Smith, he resisted. So officers used a Taser, subduing him with 50,000 volts of electricity. When Smith finally emerged from the apartment, he was rolled out on a gurney -- hogtied, face down with his hands and ankles cuffed behind him, his wife said. She could hear him whimpering. The 48-year-old man had a heart attack in the ambulance. He died in the hospital two days later.

Willie Smith was the third person in Washington state to die after being shocked with a Taser. Smith was the third person in Washington to die after being shocked with a Taser; others died in Silverdale and Olympia. Nationwide, there have been 69 such deaths since 2000, raising concerns about a new breed of electric shock devices in widespread use by law enforcement.

In dozens of cases nationwide, autopsies showed the victims died of a heart attack, cocaine intoxication or underlying causes such as heart disease. But autopsies in at least five cases found Tasers were a contributing factor in the deaths.

The company that manufactures Tasers insists they are safe and non-lethal, and some medical professionals think some of the deaths may be the result of a combination of physical restraint and drug-induced agitation. But Amnesty International and other groups say such deaths are troubling and shouldn't be overlooked as more law enforcement officers use Tasers in a wide variety of situations.

In a report issued yesterday, Amnesty International said Tasers couldn't be ruled out as a factor in seven of 74 deaths in the United States and Canada it asked a forensic pathologist to review. That underscores the need to ban such non-lethal weapons until it is known whether they're responsible for the deaths, it said.

Across the country, 6,000 law enforcement agencies have equipped some or all of their officers with the tools. According to the manufacturer, Taser International, Houston police last month placed a $4.7 million order to buy Tasers for all 3,700 of its officers.

Company says they're safe

Taser International, a publicly traded company with nearly $50 million in sales this year, says the devices have never directly caused a death. The company points out that many of the people died hours, even days, after they were shocked, and of other reasons, such as cocaine overdose or heart disease.

Steve Tuttle, a company spokesman, said a study showing Tasers did not cause ventricular fibrillation in 10 pigs has been accepted for publication in Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology, a peer-reviewed journal. The study will be published in January. Ventricular fibrillation is a condition in which the heart's electrical activity becomes disordered, which could lead to cardiac arrest in minutes.

He said the company has offered to provide funding for more medical studies using standards agreed upon with Amnesty International, but that the group has not responded. "We're not saying Tasers kill people," said Mike Murphy, coroner of Clark County, Nev., where two men have died after being shocked by Las Vegas police officers. "We appear to be seeing some issues that need to be addressed."

The Taser was one of several methods used to restrain William Lomax, a 26-year-old who was under the influence of PCP when he fought with security guards and a Las Vegas police officer earlier this year. He died after being handcuffed, shocked several times and held down, Murphy said. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy said the Taser played a role in Lomax's death, but couldn't say how big a role.

The Taser, powered by batteries, fires two darts that hook into a person's skin, then deliver an electrical charge that temporary subdues them. It can also be pressed against a person's body in a stun mode.

Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said an in-custody death isn't unusual, so "it's a huge leap to say the Taser caused the death. It's natural to expect, whether it's a huge ingestion of drugs or alcohol or from some other type of injuries, that there are going to be some deaths that are also associated with Taser use," he said.

Chief Sue Rahr, who has been named to replace King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, said she believes the tools are safe and give officers better options than wrestling or fighting someone with a baton or nightstick. She said she wants every deputy to have one. About 250 of 700 deputies now carry them.

"If there were a case where the Taser was shown as the direct cause of death, absolutely we would reconsider," she said. "But I haven't seen any information that directly correlates the Taser with the death."

But while law enforcement officers have accepted the devices as safe, relatives of those who have died aren't convinced.

"A Taser gun did the same harm that a regular gun would have done," said Tammie Smith, who believes the tool helped bring about her husband's heart attack in July. "I don't understand why he had to be Tasered."

The King County Medical Examiner Office last week ruled the 48-year-old machine operator died of "a combination of acute cocaine intoxication and physical restraint," but declined to offer more details. An inquest into Smith's death is pending.

The Auburn Police Department completed its investigation this week and forwarded the case to the King County Prosecutor's Office, which is standard procedure. Cheryl Price, department spokeswoman, said the investigation was focused on Smith's "felony assault," not any issue with the officers' involvement in his death. "He was resistant to arrest and we utilized different levels of force to subdue him, and he happened to have a cardiac episode," she said. She said she couldn't say why the department was still investigating Smith after his death.

Coroners in the two other Washington fatalities ruled that the Taser did not contribute to the deaths of:

Stephen L. Edwards, 59, of Shelton, who fought with a security guard outside a grocery store before an Olympia police officer arrived and shocked him four times in less than a minute and a half;

Curt Lee Rosentangle, 44, a Silverdale business owner, who was high on cocaine and reportedly pounding on doors at an apartment complex when a Kitsap County sheriff's deputy shocked him at least twice.

Some see deadly combination

Some say that for those already agitated, high on cocaine or other drugs or have existing heart problems, the Taser can inhibit breathing and become lethal. Dr. William Anderson, a private forensic pathologist in Florida, believes those people may be particularly vulnerable. Although the Taser is generally safe for most people, he said, the company hasn't done the scientific study to conclude it's safe for everyone. "If you're in that particular situation at the time you get Tasered, it may be the straw that breaks the camel's back," said Anderson, who added that it can be a good tool.

As deputy medical examiner in Orlando two years ago, he ruled that the Taser contributed to the death of Gordon Jones, who was cocaine-intoxicated when he was Tased multiple times. Another pathologist contradicted Anderson's ruling.

Amnesty International's report raised similar questions about whether the devices could exacerbate breathing difficulties caused by violent exertion, drug overdose or other restraint devices, triggering heart attacks.

A British government report warned "excited, intoxicated individuals or those with pre-existing heart disease could be more prone to adverse effects from the M26 Taser, compared to unimpaired individuals." But it also concluded that the risk of serious injuries was "very low" and it wasn't medically necessary to hold off using them until more was known.

"Testing that we've done hasn't identified any groups of people at risk," said Taser's Tuttle, who added that the company supports continued research on the device. "There's no use of force that's risk-free. But studies continue to show that this is one of the safest uses of force that's out there on the street."

The company has cited both the British report and a report sponsored by the Department of Defense to bolster its claims. In September, the DoD released an abstract of the report concluding that the device "does not appear to pose significant risk" and wasn't the primary cause of reported deaths. It recommended more research into how such tools affect "sensitive populations."

But the Air Force Research Laboratory, which conducted the DoD study, released a statement last week saying the devices could be dangerous in certain circumstances and that there wasn't enough data to evaluate it. The need to rely on case reports from the manufacturer and the lack of laboratory data "generate uncertainty in the results," the report said. "There's a huge gap in the scientific data that has been performed," said Larry Farlow, a spokesman with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio.

'Very little controlled research'

Kenneth Foster, who was on the independent panel that reviewed the U.S. report, said there is no indication the Taser is unsafe, though there has been "very little controlled research." "If a medical device company wanted to put a device on the market, they have to prove the safety and effectiveness using rigorous tests and to get federal approval," said Foster, a bioengineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "The Taser doesn't have that requirement, so there's been rather little systematic study as far as I can tell."

Yet, he and others say any significant hazard would have been obvious by now, given the thousands of times they've been used.

Although some Taser supporters feel more research is needed, they say Tasers shouldn't be pulled from the streets. Doing so would remove a valuable less-lethal option, they say. "I can't overemphasize (that) the value of the Taser is it allows us to gain control of somebody without injuring them. That's huge," said Rahr, of the Sheriff's Office. "What better way to protect the public than to not have to wrestle with them or hit them with a nightstick or shoot them?"

The company cites animal studies it funded, as well as tests on older versions of electric shock devices, as evidence of the product's safety. In a study in 1996, Dr. Robert Stratbucker shocked an anaesthetized pig 48 times with an older lower-powered Taser and found that it didn't affect the pig's heart.

In a later study at the University of Missouri, he and another researcher, Wayne McDaniel, shocked five dogs 236 times in the chest area with no episodes of ventricular fibrillation. McDaniel later repeated the study on 10 anesthetized pigs, and determined the device could be used safely even at 15 times its standard power.

Kerlikowske said police agencies are left to their own devices when determining the safety of new policing tools, but his agency didn't buy Tasers as a knee-jerk reaction. A citizens group researched the options and compared notes with other police agencies. "There are some departments that have a controversial shooting and, within a month, they buy 500 Tasers and issue it to every officer," he said.
"We went into this as methodically and thoroughly as any agency as I've ever seen."

Taser says the device operates at a fraction of the electricity used to resuscitate heart attack victims -- 1.6 joules. A joule is a unit of energy. "That amount of energy applied to the chest, probably only a fraction ends up going to the heart," said Dr. Peter Kudenchuk, professor of medicine at the University of Washington. "Simply the pain created by a shock of 1.6 joules might make the heart rate faster, but I'd be surprised if much of the energy reaches the heart itself," he said. "In terms of causing a cardiac arrest, the risk is probably low."

Some medical experts believe the common denominator in the publicized deaths is not the Taser, but how officers restrain out-of-control, agitated people. Some of those who died while in custody were hogtied, handcuffed or held down, which compressed their chests and restricted their ability to breathe. A person's delirious, excited state combined with the way he or she is restrained plays a more significant role in a fatal outcome, they say.

In a British Columbia report this fall, a group of medical professionals said the deaths of four people there may have been because the individuals were restrained while in an excited, delirious state and that the Tasers didn't cause their deaths.

Tasers cited in five deaths

But Tasers played a part in at least five deaths nationwide, according to medical authorities. A county coroner in Indiana ruled that electric shock contributed to the death of James Borden, who died in an Indiana jail after being shocked several times while handcuffed. The jail officer faces two counts of felony battery. "People who carry these should be warned," said David Brimm, an attorney representing the Borden family in a wrongful death suit against the county and Taser.

Pathologist Ronald Kohr ruled Borden died of cardiac dysrhythmia, or disorder of the heartbeat. He listed an enlarged heart, pharmacological drug intoxication and electric shock as contributing factors. But a pathologist working for the jail officer's defense, Dr. Cyril Wecht, wrote in a memo that there was no basis to conclude the Taser contributed to Borden's death.

Electric shock was also listed as one of four causes of death for Jacob Lair, a 29-year-old who died last June after a struggle with police officers in Sparks, Nev. The autopsy report said methamphetamines combined with delirium, the Taser and restraint combined to kill him. "There's not a single one of those that you can make the sole cause of death, and not one that you can ignore," Washoe County Coroner Vernon McCarty said of Lair's case.

A coroner in South Carolina also ruled the Taser contributed to the death of William Teasley, who died in August after he was shocked at the county jail. "The Taser gun was a last straw because he was Tased and he collapsed to the floor," said Charlie Boseman, a forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy. Teasley died of cardiac arrhythmia, with the Taser and health problems, including an enlarged heart and heart and liver diseases, contributing. Boseman said two Taser representatives called him and asked him "could we not use the Taser as part of the man's death." "I told them that we could not change the report and leave the Taser out, because the Taser was used to bring the man down to the floor," Boseman said.

Tuttle said the company has never pressured any medical professional to alter a report involving a death in which a Taser was involved. Rather, they called Boseman's office to offer technical information on Tasers that the pathologist requested, he said.

Smith, who has been waiting for her husband's death certificate, is convinced the shock played a role in her husband's death. She said she hoped police would "take responsibility for their part in it."

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Canada - Excessive and lethal force?

November 30, 2004
Amnesty International

LA autopsy report 9th to cite taser use

November 30, 2004
Robert Anglen, Arizona Republic

The death of a California man two years ago is the ninth fatality to be linked to a Taser electric stun gun.

A Los Angeles County coroner said Taser could not be ruled out in the 2002 death of Johnny Lozoya, who was shocked by police when he fought with hospital staff attempting to help him following a seizure.

"One cannot exclude the Taser causing above damage to the tissues, specifically the heart," Deputy Medical Examiner Louis Pena wrote in an autopsy report. "Thus the manner of death could not be determined." advertisement

The autopsy of the 34-year-old Gardena man is the latest in a series of medical reports obtained by the Arizona Republic, which has identified 77 deaths following a police Taser strike since 1999.

The autopsy appears to contradict previous published reports by Taser International, the stun gun's Scottsdale manufacturer, which blamed Lozoya's death on a heart attack from cocaine intoxication.

"Taser not a cause," according to a company report touting the weapon's safety.

Taser says the stun gun, which has been sold to more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies as an alternative to deadly force, has never caused a death or serious injury.

Taser officials on Monday maintained that Taser played no part in Lozoya's death.

"After reviewing this case, it is similar to other in-custody deaths in which Taser technology was not deployed," Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said in an e-mail. "Taser International is always concerned when a death in custody tragically occurs."

Of the 77 cases, The Republic has so far examined 29 autopsy reports. Medical examiners have cited Taser as a cause or contributing factor in six cases and said the gun could not be ruled out in two other previous cases.

Lozoya died on July 20, 2002 after police found him lying on the ground having a seizure.

Gardena police reports show that the partially clad Lozoya was running on a convalescent home's roof. Shortly afterward, witnesses reported that he was running through traffic and that he jumped on a car.

Police found him on the ground, foaming at the mouth. Officers called paramedics, who took him to the hospital, where he became combative.

"Officers used a non-lethal weapon (Taser) to subdue the decedent," the autopsy report stated. "He went into full arrest shortly thereafter."

Although Lozoya was resuscitated, he later died.

The autopsy report shows that Lozoya died of hypoxic encephalopathy, a lack of oxygen to the brain, following cardiac arrest. The medical examiner noted on the report that Lozoya's injuries were caused by unknown factors, cocaine and Taser use.

Tuttle says Lozoya's death could not be related to the Taser because he died several minutes after being shocked.

"With the 11 minute or greater time elapse between the exposure of the Taser and Lozoya's collapse, there is no plausible cardiovascular link between the Taser use and this tragic event," Tuttle said.

For years, Taser officials claimed that no autopsy or medical examiner ever cited the stun gun as a factor in a death.

But The Republic found that Taser never had copies of autopsy reports and didn't start collecting them until April. The company also omitted cases linking the stun gun to deaths from reports to shareholders and the public.

Taser officials now acknowledge autopsy reports linking the stun gun to deaths but question their accuracy, saying coroners do not have the expertise to determine if Tasers have caused deaths.

They blame the deaths on other factors, including drug addictions and pre-existing health problems.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Taser on children OK, police say

November 27, 2004
Daytona Beach News Journal

Officials from a majority of law enforcement agencies in Volusia and Flagler counties say they would not hesitate to shoot a child with a Taser stun gun to keep the youngster from harming himself or someone else.

The Taser policies of law enforcement agencies in both counties require police to consider everything from a suspect's age to physical and mental condition, but no local agency specifically prohibits using the weapon on a child.

"There are those youths out there that are just as capable of hurting someone as any 18-year-old," said Sgt. Pete Moon of the DeLand Police Department. "Each scenario is different."

Debra Johnson, a spokeswoman with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, agreed that age wasn't the only deciding factor. "There are some 12 year-olds out there that are bigger than some adults," she said.

The weapons are equipped with electric barbs that penetrate the skin and transmit an electric shock of up to 50,000 volts from the Taser. Tasers also may be used as a stun gun by pressing the weapon against the skin.

Law enforcement agencies in the area discussed their policies with The News-Journal after two separate incidents in Miami in which police were accused of using their Taser guns on children -- a 12-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy -- who officers claimed were endangering themselves.

The incidents prompted a review of the Miami-Dade Police Department's Taser policy, said Miami-Dade Detective Nelda Fonticella , because that policy does not specifically address the issue of Tasers and children.

Local police said officers are expected to use discretion and consider whether the suspect poses a threat to himself or another person.

Of the local police agencies surveyed, only the Daytona Beach police reported using a Taser on a child under 17.

Volusia County Sheriff's Office spokesman Brandon Haught said Sheriff Ben Johnson is "fully against" using Tasers on children.

"He feels it should be used only as a last resort," Haught said.

Spokesman Gary Davidson described the department's Taser use as "very conservative." Deputies have deployed the weapons 175 times in the last three years.

Resource officers who patrol Volusia or Flagler schools do not carry Tasers, officials said, but do carry service weapons and can call on sheriff's deputies with Tasers for backup.

Daytona Beach Shores police -- who have deployed Tasers more often this year than any other law enforcement agency in the county, according to police reports -- declined comment on the issue.

Police agencies in Central Florida have had to decide whether to allow officers to use Tasers only in cases of active physical resistance, or in any case of resistance, including verbal refusals to cooperate.

In the Daytona Beach police incidents earlier this year where Tasers were deployed against two 16-year-old boys in two separate incidents, the suspects were running away from police, said Lt. Jesse Godfrey, a spokesman for the department.

An officer may fire his or her Taser at a running suspect if the officer believes the person has committed a crime, Godfrey said. The officer must shout verbal commands at the suspect and warn that the Taser will be used.

"In a foot pursuit, either the officer or the person can hurt their leg or ankle, they can get hit by a car or they can fall," Godfrey said. "By using the Taser, we reduce the danger to both."

Yvonne Herrera, R.N., an pediatric intensive care nurse in charge of Night Lite Pediatrics in Orlando, said little information is available about the medical effects of a Taser on a child and the pediatricians there had never heard of a Taser being used on a local child.

"I don't think that was the intended use," she said.

As an emergency room nurse, though, Herrera said she has seen adults brought in after being hit with Tasers. She said the Taser's current doesn't knock suspects from their feet, but causes their knees to buckle, so they crumple to the ground. Patients who have received a Taser blast usually have no serious injuries, she said, and are treated for pain and small lacerations at the site of the stun.

Many officers said that as much as they would dislike having to shoot a child with a Taser, they recognize the time might come when it would be necessary.

"The child would have to reach the same level (of behavior) as an adult," said Ormond Beach training division Officer Vince Champion.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Claims Over Tasers' Safety Are Challenged

November 26, 2004
Alex Berenson, The New York Times

Taser International, whose electrical guns are used by thousands of police departments nationwide, says that a federal study endorses the safety of its guns, but the laboratory that conducted the research disagrees.

Taser said last month that the government study, whose full results have not yet been released, found that its guns were safe. Since that statement, the company's stock has soared and its executives and directors have sold $68 million in shares, about 5 percent of Taser's stock and nearly half their holdings.

But the Air Force laboratory that conducted the study now says that it actually found that the guns could be dangerous and that more data was needed to evaluate their risks. The guns "may cause several unintended effects, albeit with low probabilities of occurrence," the laboratory said last week in a statement released after a symposium on Tasers, as the company's guns are known, and other weapons intended to incapacitate people without killing them.

Taser said Wednesday that it stood behind its October statement.

Other data presented at the symposium raised questions about one of Taser's key claims about the effectiveness of its newest and most expensive weapon.

Tasers are pistol-shaped weapons that fire electrified darts up to 21 feet, shocking suspects with a painful charge. More than 5,500 police departments and prisons now use Tasers, compared with only a handful five years ago.

Many police officers say that Tasers give them a way to restrain dangerous suspects without using firearms or fighting with them. But civil liberties groups say police often use Tasers on people who are merely unruly or disobedient, not dangerous. Recently, police officers in Miami shocked a 6-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl in separate incidents, prompting widespread criticism.

"The evidence suggests that far from being used to avoid lethal force, many police forces are using Tasers as a routine force option," said Curt Goering, senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International. "The way these weapons are being used in some circumstances could constitute torture or ill treatment."

Amnesty has called for police departments to stop using the guns pending an independent inquiry into their safety. The group will release a report next week documenting police abuse of Tasers, Mr. Goering said.

The growing use of Tasers is disconcerting because their risks have not been properly studied, biomedical engineers say. More than 70 people have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers, mainly from heart or respiratory failure.

Taser International says the deaths resulted from drug overdoses or other factors and would have occurred anyway. But coroners have linked several deaths to the weapons, and independent scientists who are authorities on electricity and the heart say that the company may be significantly underestimating the weapon's risks, especially in people who have used drugs or have heart disease.

Taser has performed only minimal research on the health effects of its weapons. Its primary safety studies on the M26, its most powerful gun, consist of tests on a single pig in 1996 and on five dogs in 1999. The company has resisted calls for more tests, saying that it is comfortable with the research it has conducted.

Tasers are largely unregulated and have never been studied for their safety or effectiveness by the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But for two years the Defense Department has studied Tasers as part of military research into weapons designed to be effective without being deadly.

In a press release on Oct. 18, Taser said that the military study had found its guns "generally effective without significant risk of unintended consequences."

Rick Smith, the chief executive of Taser, called the study "the latest chapter in a series of comprehensive medical and scientific studies which conclude that Taser technology is safe and effective."

Taser's stock, which closed at $37.47 on Oct. 15, the last trading day before the study was released, rose 60 percent over the next month and peaked at $60.85 on Nov. 15. During the week ended Nov. 12, Taser executives and directors sold 1.28 million shares for $68 million. The company's stock closed Wednesday at $50.51, down 89 cents.

But neither Taser nor the military released the full study, only an excerpt. The full study remains confidential, military officials say. But last week, after the symposium on less-deadly weapons in Winston-Salem, N.C., the Air Force laboratory that conducted the study said that it had not found Tasers were safe.

The guns "may cause several unintended effects, albeit with estimated low probabilities of occurrence," the laboratory said. "Available laboratory data are too limited to adequately quantify possible risks of ventricular fibrillation or seizures, particularly in susceptible populations."

Ventricular fibrillation is a disturbance of the electrical circuitry of the heart that causes cardiac arrest in seconds and death in minutes. Taser says that its weapons do not produce enough current to cause ventricular fibrillation, but scientists who are authoritative on fibrillation say that the company has not done enough research to know whether that contention is accurate.

Taser said Wednesday that the military had reviewed and approved its October statement before the company released it.

An Air Force scientist presented data at the symposium last week showing that repeated Taser shocks caused pigs to become acidotic - a dangerous condition in which the pH of the blood drops. A 1999 study by the Justice Department suggested that "deaths following Tasers' use may be due to acidosis."

People who have been hit repeatedly by Tasers should receive medical monitoring, said Dr. James Jauchem, the Air Force scientist. A spokeswoman for the Air Force said Wednesday that Dr. Jauchem was on vacation for Thanksgiving and not available for additional comments.

Dr. Jauchem also presented data calling into question the company's assertion that the Taser X26, its newest gun, is especially effective even though it fires a smaller charge than the company's older weapon, the M26. Taser has said that the X26 fires a special kind of electric pulse that works better than traditional stun guns.

But Dr. Jauchem said the shape of the X26's electric pulse had only a minor effect on the amount of muscle contraction it produced.

Taser falls on New York Times report

November 26, 2004
By Jim Jelter, CBS MarketWatch.com

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Shares of stun-gun maker Taser International tumbled Friday, hit by a New York Times report that raised new safety concerns about the company's main product line. The article in the New York Times, citing unpublished results of Air Force Research Laboratory tests, adds to a growing body of complaints over the use and safety of Taser's stun guns. According to the paper, the Air Force said at a symposium last week that Taser stun guns may be dangerous and require further testing. The Air Force's comments fly in the face of a recent federal study that called Taser's products "generally safe and effective." Company executives could not be reached for comment. Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser markets its guns as nonlethal self-protection devices, with law enforcement agencies and security companies making up its biggest customer base. According to the company, its products send a nonlethal jolt of electricity to subdue the target body. But there has been a rash of complaints in recent months blaming Taser stun guns for accidental injuries, raising the specter of debilitating lawsuits. Taser shares have shed about 13 percent of their value in just the past two weeks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Expand Taser use, report urges

November 16, 2004
JEFF GRAY, Globe and Mail

But board chairwoman calls for study of long-term health effects of stun guns

A Toronto Police report says front-line sergeants should be given Taser stun guns to subdue suspects, but the chairwoman of the Police Services Board says more study is needed before the controversial weapons are rolled out.

The report, on the agenda for Thursday's Police Services Board meeting and signed by Chief Julian Fantino, dismisses safety concerns about the Taser, which uses an electrical charge to subdue suspects. Currently, only members of the force's emergency task force tactical squad are armed with the devices, usually used to deal with people the police refer to as "emotionally disturbed persons" -- often those who are drug-addled or mentally ill.

"Certainly, in my view, before we move too far down this road, we need to examine the long-term health effects of Taser use," said Councillor Pam McConnell, the police board chairwoman. She said she hopes to ask the city's medical officer of health for a report on the risks of Taser use.

The board is expected to receive the report, but not take any action on it.

The police report recommends buying more than 500 stun guns -- which deliver their electrical charge via a wire that hooks onto a suspect's clothes or skin -- at a cost of just over $1-million.

The report argues that front-line supervisors on patrol, not just the tactical squad, should have Tasers because by the time the ETF arrives -- sometimes 20 minutes or more after the call comes in -- it can be too late.

In one case, the report says, officers in 14 Division "were held at bay for over twenty-five minutes by an emotionally disturbed man brandishing a large knife" before the ETF arrived with Tasers at the ready. "At one point the man was literally chasing officers around a police vehicle in an attempt to force officers to shoot him," the report reads.

The report also suggests that the Toronto Police Service could be opening itself up to lawsuits if it fails to put Tasers in the hands of more officers, because the force could be held liable for deaths or injuries that would have been prevented had a Taser been handy.

Although used by thousands of police forces around the world and across Canada, including most in the GTA, the Taser remains controversial.

The RCMP, the Edmonton Police Service, the Calgary Police Service and the Vancouver Police Department allow front-line supervisors to use the weapons, and the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety recently changed its rules to allow front-line supervisors in the province to use the devices.

A major front-page article in a July edition of The New York Times investigated the safety record of Tasers and said 50 people in the United States have died since 2001 after being stunned by the devices. But the company that makes the weapons countered that the causes of death were drug overdoses, restraint asphyxia or other factors -- not the Taser.

The Toronto police report says no deaths have been conclusively linked to the Taser, "despite initial sensational media reports."

In the GTA, the Taser was ruled out as a factor in the death of 29-year-old Jerry Knight, a drugged-up and out-of-control boxer, subdued by Peel Regional Police using the device in July.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Taser Stun Guns the Target Of Growing Canadian Concern As Use Spreads

October 15, 2004

OTTAWA (CP) -- Canada's public safety minister has joined human-rights groups and some police officers urging a closer look at Taser stun guns. Abuse complaints about the way police use the weapons are mounting as the painful electric-shock devices become standard tools for law enforcement across Canada and the United States.

Many police hail the Taser for its potential to cut rates of injury and death during arrests. Critics say there's a dark side to this emerging alternative to deadly force.

Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan says more should be known about a weapon that's being snapped up by police and correctional services.

"Whenever the policing community is using a tool, one wants to make sure that that tool is safe, that the people who are using it are well-trained and know what they're doing, and that there's no unnecessary infliction of harm on anyone,'' she said in an interview.

Jim Cessford, chief of the Delta, B.C., police force, said recent incidents in which people who were high on drugs died after being hit with a Taser have raised some new questions. "I think it's time that we need to have another look and see what's changed,'' said Cessford, who is helping oversee a national study of Taser use.

Another Canadian review has already called for changes.

Dirk Ryneveld, British Columbia's police complaints commissioner, recommended standard, provincewide Taser training for B.C. in an interim report released in September.

The report was ordered after Robert Bagnell of Vancouver became the fifth of six Canadians to die following a jolt from a Taser.

Ryneveld also called for mandatory reports whenever the weapons, which resemble snub-nosed hand guns, are used.

There are several areas in which "the training certainly could be standardized'' across police forces, said RCMP Const. Gregg Gillis, who teaches Mounties to use Tasers.

McLellan indicated her department is prepared to step in to work with the provinces and police on national standards for Taser use if they are needed. "I think that there may be a role (for the federal government),'' she said.

Coroners' inquests to be held over the next year will probe what role, if any, stun guns played in four B.C. deaths and two in Ontario _ all of them drug-related. The first, which will examine the death of Clay Alvin Willey, begins Monday in Prince George, B.C.

Tasers cause temporary loss of muscle control with a 50,000-volt zap that knocks most suspects off their feet. Often no lasting physical trace is left.

There is no national means of monitoring how and when the weapons are used.

At issue is the potential for police to abuse an otherwise valuable tool, wielding it against unarmed suspects who simply ignore commands or passively resist arrest.

There are also troubling questions about whether stun guns should be used against suspects whose hearts are overtaxed by drug use or a form of psychosis known as "excited delirium.''

Amnesty International says the contentious devices should be suspended pending more independent research.

As many as 60 people have died in the United States after being zapped, but Taser International stresses that not a single death has been directly or primarily blamed on its product.

"Our studies currently show the technology is safe,'' said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for the Arizona-based company. "It's a very humane system to stop somebody, without having to cause blunt trauma.''

The firm argues the device, which sells for $400 US and up depending on the model, has saved thousands of lives and has helped police forces reduce injuries to officers.

Even the most ardent critics say the Taser, introduced to Canadian policing by the Victoria force five years ago, has a role to play in life-threatening situations. (The name stands for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle, after a storybook that inspired its inventor.)

"If you have a police officer being attacked by somebody with a knife, then the Tasers _ no matter what the risks are _ they're far less than shooting the guy,'' says Edmonton criminal defence lawyer Tom Engel. "But some officers are using them like they're toys. And some are even using them . . . there's no other way to describe it other than torture.''

A Taser fires for up to five seconds and can be shot repeatedly. Two barbs attached to copper wires can connect from up to six metres away and will shock even through thick layers of clothing. A "touch stun'' can be used at close range, which one police trainer likened to "leaning against a hot stove.''

Taser International says its goal is to provide "non-injurious solutions to violent confrontation by developing products that enable law enforcement officers to protect themselves without causing injury or death to another human being.''

Rahim Hadani says that's not what happened the night his buddy died.

Roman Andreichikov, a buff personal trainer coming off a crack cocaine binge, was calm when four city police officers arrived at his Vancouver apartment on May 1, Hadani says. "He was just sitting on the couch, rocking back and forth.''

Hadani had called for paramedics because Andreichikov, paranoid and mumbling to himself, had been acting suicidal. Police came first to secure the scene. They entered the apartment with a Taser stun gun already drawn and aimed, Hadani says.

Andreichikov wasn't hurting himself or anyone else, he said. "I wouldn't have been in there if it wasn't a safe place to be.''

Andreichikov, 25, followed orders when the officers told him to lay face-down on the floor, his friend recalled.

"They kept saying: `Shoot him! Shoot him!' ''

When he suddenly flipped over to see what was going on, police stunned Andreichikov with a close-range shot to his bare chest, Hadani said.

"He was screaming because it was hurting so much.''

As the officers pounced to handcuff him, Andreichikov turned his head toward Hadani and said: "I can't breathe.'' He never regained consciousness.

A coroner's inquest into the death is pending.

The Vancouver Police Department did not respond to interview requests. But Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham has previously called the Taser a valuable tool, saying he's satisfied it is safe.

Less than two months after the Andreichikov incident, Robert Bagnell died June 23 in a cheap rooming hotel down the street. He stopped breathing soon after being Tasered in the throes of what police said was cocaine-induced psychosis.

Vancouver police waited a month to publicly reveal that Bagnell, 44, had been hit with a stun gun. By that time, they had a toxicology report that said the longtime drug addict had potentially lethal amounts of cocaine in his system.

Three coroners told The Canadian Press that there is in fact no standard minimum level beyond which cocaine intoxication is lethal. Tolerance of the drug varies too much from person to person, said Terry Smith, B.C.'s chief coroner.

Almost two months after Bagnell's death, police issued another statement saying a fire in the building had forced them to act quickly when the deranged man refused to leave.

Bagnell's neighbour and friend, Jack Ivers, scoffed at the explanation.

"It was a minor fire'' that was quickly doused on the main floor with little damage, he said. Bagnell and the police were four floors up.

Ivers, 64, says his friend needed medical help _ not a 50,000-volt shock.

"What irritates me is it had just happened a couple months previous to that down the street,'' he said, referring to Andreichikov's death. "They (the police) know the effect.''

Some 2,400 Tasers are now in the hands of more than 50 police and correctional services across Canada. A small number will be introduced into two maximum-security prisons by the end of 2005, says the Correctional Service of Canada.

It's difficult to know how often the weapons are used across Canada. Only fragmentary statistics have been made public.

"Federally we don't have anything right now,'' said Steve Palmer, executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre.

Internal RCMP statistics show Tasers have figured in about 400 incidents nationwide since they were first used in a field trial in Western Canada as part of an evaluation initiated in 2000, said Gillis.

Privacy laws have prevented the Mounties from widely circulating data about those incidents, he noted.

There is no consensus among police forces about when the Taser should be used.

"In different jurisdictions, people say Tasers are the last step prior to lethal force,'' says Palmer. "In others, they can be used with broader officer discretion.''

The research centre, a partnership of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the RCMP and the National Research Council, is leading a comprehensive review of Taser literature, field reports and other international data. The chiefs' association commissioned the study in August to probe continuing concerns. A final report is not expected for up to two years.

A clearer sense of how the Taser should best be used, as well as recommendations for standardized training, could emerge from the process, indicated the Delta police force's Cessford, who is also chairman of the police research centre's advisory board.

Training currently varies among police across Canada, says Gillis of the RCMP. Mounties spend from eight to 10 hours learning about how the device works - including three hours of hands-on use - as well as studying medical and tactical issues.

That's more than double the amount of time some departments allot for training, Gillis said.

He welcomed the interim recommendations from the B.C. complaints commissioner. The guidance will be valuable if it spurs forces to adopt higher, more consistent standards, he said.

"That's good . . . if it causes us all to take our various training packages out, place them on the table and open them up to being critiqued by everybody else, so that we can go back with a better product at the end of the day.''

The Taser is only meant for use against suspects who assault police or someone else, or who try to break away during an arrest, says Edmonton Police Const. Shawna Goodkey, a use-of-force specialist who trains officers to handle the stun guns.

"We don't use it on people that are co-operative, obviously,'' she said. "Or even people that just are sitting there and saying: `You know what? I'm not going to go with you.' ''

"We're looking at deploying it only on someone that is an active resister.''

Tasers have saved lives in Edmonton at least four times in the last four years but the force has not gathered related statistics, she said.

"It's definitely a worthwhile tool.''

New Democrat MP Libby Davies, whose East Vancouver riding includes the drug-plagued Downtown Eastside area where Andreichikov and Bagnell died, is not convinced.

She says it's time for the federal government to step in where police forces have failed to monitor Tasers.

"I think we need to have a national perspective on the use of these weapons,'' Davies said.

"Some of the situations that I've read about, I've found them really quite disturbing.''

McLellan says it's too soon to draw conclusions about what appears to be a valuable tool.

"I think while it is reasonable to have some concerns, and we need to learn more about whether those concerns are valid,'' she said, "I also think that one should not overreact and immediately suggest that somehow this is not a tool that the police should have available.''

McLellan expects the RCMP and other police forces to take the lead and determine whether current training practices are appropriate before politicians consider action.

As with many tools, knowledge comes from experience with them, she said.

"We learn both their strengths and their weaknesses and we try to deal with the weaknesses.''

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Florida police review policy after children shocked

November 14, 2004
Associated Press

Friday, November 12, 2004

Police used Taser gun to subdue 6-year-old student wielding piece of glass

November 12, 2004
Miami Herald

Miami-Dade police tasered a 6-year-old boy who was wielding a piece of glass in a school office and threatening to hurt himself, officials confirmed Thursday.

Police say they followed their own guidelines and only tasered the child because they were afraid he would hurt himself. But the incident has raised calls for the department tighten its policies regarding the use of the stun guns, which shoot 50,000 volts of electric current through a subject.

The incident happened on Oct. 20 at Kelsey Pharr Elementary School. The principal, Maria Mason, called 911 after the child, who has not been identified, broke a picture frame in the assistant principal's office. Then the boy began waving the piece of glass around, holding a security guard at bay.

Two Miami-Dade police officers responded, followed by a school police officer. When they got there, the boy already had a cut under his right eye and another on his hand from the glass. The three officers talked to the boy, trying to get him to put down the glass, according to a police report.

One of the officers slid a trash can to him, hoping he would throw the glass away if he didn't want to give it to any of the five adults there.

Then the officer contacted a supervisor to see if there was a policy specifically prohibiting the use of a stun gun on a child. There isn't, and the officer was told to do what she felt was necessary.

The two officers continued to try to talk to the child, who didn't respond.

Then he cut his own leg and the officers acted. One officer shocked him with the Taser while the other grabbed him, preventing him from falling on the ground.

The boy was treated by Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue at the school and taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was committed for psychiatric evaluation.

''By using the Taser, we were able to stop the situation, stop him from hurting himself,'' said police spokesman Juan DelCastillo. ``We inflicted no injuries on him. We were able to take him to the hospital and hopefully he's going to get the mental health attention he needs.

''Sure he could have been tackled and maybe injured, maybe his arm broken or maybe that glass could have cut him in a critical area,'' DelCastillo said.

Yet others in the community wondered why four adults -- the three officers and the security guard -- weren't able to control a 6-year-old without resorting to a stun gun.

Retired Broward County Juvenile Judge Frank Orlando, who now runs a law clinic on youth law at Nova Southeastern University, called the incident ``ridiculous.''

''It just sounds excessive to me to Taser gun a 6-year-old when everyone else around there were adults,'' he said. ``They couldn't subdue a 6-year-old? Must have been a pretty big kid.''

Police would not release any details on the size of the child. The department is reviewing the case.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Métis man's death due to drugs, not Taser: doctor

October 19, 2004
CBC News

A coroner's inquest in British Columbia looking into the death of man after he was shot with a Taser gun has been told the man probably died of a cocaine overdose.
Clayton Willey died 16 hours after he was subdued by a Taser gun in July 2003.

The RCMP were called to deal with Willey after reports of an altercation with security staff at a mall in Prince George.

Willey was restrained, handcuffed and then shot with a Taser at least twice. The Taser delivers a 50,000-volt zap and causes temporary loss of muscle control.

An autopsy determined the 33-year-old man had potentially lethal amounts of cocaine in his system when he died.

The first witness in the inquest, Dr. James McNaughton, said high cocaine abuse contributed to Willey's death and not anything the police did. The pathologist noted Willey suffered a severe heart attack 20 minutes after he was hit with a Taser on the day he died. McNaughton says a shorter interval of time between the two incidents would be needed to make a connection.

An RCMP probe has already cleared officers of any wrongdoing, but the dead man's sister still has many questions.

Bryna Willey says her brother had marks all over his body, a bruised head, missing teeth and internal bleeding after the altercation with security guards and police.

Most of all, she wants to know why police used the Taser to subdue her brother, when he was already wearing handcuffs.

"I think it's a hand-held electric chair," she said. "It's a death sentence."

The inquest will hear testimony in Prince George both this week and next.

Complaints about the way police use the subduing tactic have been on the increase. Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan is on the record as saying more research should be done about the effect Tasers can have on people.

On the worldwide stage, the human rights group Amnesty International wants police forces to suspend the use of Taser guns.

Several inquiries into the use of Tasers are about to begin across Canada. Willey's case is the first one.

Dirk Ryneveld, B.C.'s police complaints commissioner, has recommended standardized province-wide Taser training for police officers likely to use them in the line of duty.

Ryneveld made the recommendation after the death of Vancouver resident Robert Bagnell this July. Bagnell also had high amounts of cocaine in his system when he died.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Better Taser training needed, says B.C. report

September 30, 2004
Canadian Press

VICTORIA — Police in British Columbia should continue using the Taser as a weapon of force despite four deaths, but better training is required, says a report released Wednesday. "Our analysis of the field usages and the medical literature suggests appropriate use of the Taser presents an acceptable level of risk to subjects being controlled,'' concludes an interim report ordered by B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld.

But, while the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said the report was positive, the watchdog group said the technology is still evolving and must be monitored.

The report, written by the Victoria police chief, includes five recommendations for police across British Columbia.

They are:

A standard provincewide police Taser training course.
Mandatory reports of all Taser uses.
Moves to new technology.
Better training for officers with regards to drug abuse behaviour.
Elimination of a police restraint method that involves handcuffing hands and ankles behind the back.

"We believe that more can be done to ensure uniformity of training across the province to provide enhanced levels of accountability and to decrease the risk to those groups most at risk from sudden and unexpected death associated to restraint, whether or not the Taser is used,'' said the report.

Ryneveld ordered the Taser use probe following reports of the June 23 death of Robert Bagnell of Vancouver. Bagnell, who was high on cocaine and other drugs, was hit by the high-voltage charge of a police Taser in a Vancouver hotel room. He died at the scene. Vancouver police waited a month before confirming one of its Tasers hit Bagnell.

Victoria police Chief Paul Battershill was appointed to lead the probe that included investigating the Bagnell case and reviewing the use of the Taser by police officers in British Columbia. The interim report issued Wednesday only examined Taser use in British Columbia. Four people have died in B.C. in the past 15 months in circumstances where police used a Taser. Each incident, including Bagnell's death, is the subject of a coroner's inquest, all of which are expected to be completed in six to eight months.

The four B.C. cases involved individuals suffering from excited delirium, a condition known to be caused by psychiatric illness or overuse of street drugs, primarily methamphetamine and cocaine.

At a press conference in Victoria, Battershill said police can expect to encounter people in states of excited delirium more frequently as drug use increases.

The report recommended the creation of a standard police course on interpreting signs of excited delirium to all police officers, new recruits and current members.

"That appears to be under-recognized in both the police and medical communities right,'' Battershill said.

Training in Taser use must be standardized across British Columbia because inconsistencies between police departments were discovered as were reporting deficiencies, he said.

All Taser uses must be reported, Battershill said.

Police were also advised to switch to new Taser weapons that emit lower levels of electricity, but provide better control and information storage.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association spokesman Murray Mollard said the only negative aspect to the recomendations is that they should have been made five years ago.

"They're late in coming but now that they're here, it's a good thing," he said. "This is an interim report so we're going to hear more. The technology is new enough that they're going to have to keep doing this." And, Mollard added, evidence out there doesn't support removing Tasers. "We've always said this is an important addition to the use of force spectrum but it must be used appropriately," Mollard said.

At least six people have died in Canada after being shocked by Tasers.

The devices fire two barbs attached to a wire that deliver a 50,000-volt shock on contact for up to five seconds. The weapon is meant to immobilize aggressors by shocking their muscles.

Police like the Taser because it offers a less than lethal option for dealing with dangerous and unstable people. But critics say the weapon is sometimes lethal.

Amnesty International has said the weapon should be banned until more tests are done to determine its safety. The human rights group says the guns can be deadly when someone is in a weakened state because of heart problems or drug use.

About 50 people have died after being shot with Tasers in North America, most in the U.S. The B.C. report examined 4,500 Taser uses across North America and Europe, said Victoria Police Insp. Bill Naughton. Of the 4,500 uses, four deaths were reported, he said. The B.C. deaths were not part of the current probe because they are still subject to a coroner's investigation, said Naughton. He said the Taser is effective 94 per cent of the time. Naughton said the report would have recommended banning Taser use if it found the risks outweighed the advantages. "I don't think we took anything off the table,'' he said. "We would have banned it.''

Ryneveld said he will give a copy of the interim report to Rich Coleman, B.C.'s Solicitor General and the minister responsible for policing in British Columbia.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Police Cleared in TASER Death; Boxer Died While High on Cocaine, Stun Gun Not to Blame, SIU Rules

September 28, 2004
Tracy Huffman, Toronto Star

Peel Region police involved in a violent struggle with a semi-pro boxer that ended in his death after one officer used a Taser stun gun have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

Jerry Knight was high on cocaine when 20 officers responded to a 911 call in the early hours of July 17 at a Dixie Rd. motel. Police had reasonable grounds to arrest the 29-year-old, who forcefully resisted arrest, the province''s Special Investigations Unit concluded.

Pepper spray, batons and attempts to handcuff the belligerent Brampton man did not calm him. At one point, he bit an officer. After a 20-minute fight, one officer used the Taser on Knight, hitting him in the back. He eventually lost consciousness and died in hospital.

"The actions of the police appear to have played a role in Mr. Knight''s death, but their actions in and of themselves cannot be said to be criminal, at least based on the available evidence," SIU director James Cornish said in announcing the decision yesterday.

"The cause of Mr. Knight''s death was restraint asphyxia with cocaine-related excited delirium," Cornish said. Excitation delirium is a state in which an individual''s body produces so much adrenaline the heart goes out of rhythm and the person dies.

The forensic pathologist "ruled out the use of the Taser as being a contributing cause to Mr. Knight''s death," according to the report of the SIU, a civilian agency that investigates police incidents involving a serious injury or death.

At the time, witnesses said Knight had "gone berserk" inside the small lobby of the White Knight Motel. Knight had been arrested three times before under the Mental Health Act for erratic behaviour. On July 17, Knight - who was in excellent physical condition - tried to vault the check-in counter, threw business cards around and pulled the fire alarm.

Knight''s death provoked debate on the issue of Tasers and their use by police. Electric guns that discharge up to 50,000 volts, Tasers are designed to cause pain and temporary paralysis, but not death.

The coroner''s office has called an inquest in this case to look at all forms of "less lethal force" used by police. A date has not yet been set.

Police Taser not a factor in Knight's death, SIU says

September 28, 2004

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit has cleared police of wrongdoing in the death of Jerry Knight in July.

The 29-year-old Mr. Knight, a drugged-up and out-of-control boxer, became violent in a motel lobby and died after police used a Taser to subdue him.

"The forensic pathologist in this matter has ruled out the use of the Taser as being a contributing cause to Mr. Knight's death," SIU interim director James Cornish said in a statement released yesterday.

"The cause of Mr. Knight's death was restraint asphyxia with cocaine-related excited delirium."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

American Civil Liberties Union - Recommendations regarding taser use .

September 21, 2004
American Civil Liberties Union

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Taser technology review and interim recommendations

September 2004
Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner

Six police officers authored this report. One of the authors was former Taser Shareholder, Sgt. Darren Laur of the Victoria Police Department.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Excited Delirium and its Correlation to Sudden and Unexpected Death Proximal to Restraint

September 2004
Sgt. Darren Laur, former Taser Shareholder
Victoria Police Department

In an Arizona Republic article dated September 24, 2005, Robert Anglen wrote: "Another officer who received Taser stock options is Darren Laur of the Victoria, British Columbia, Police Department. Laur has been a staunch advocate for Taser for years and helped write a report in 1999 that helped usher Tasers into Canada.According to court documents, Laur was given 750 stock options in 2001 for helping to design a holster for the Taser. Taser said he sold the options in 2003."In my view there is an appearance of a conflict of interest, or at least the perception of a conflict," Canadian lawyer Cameron Ward said. Ward represents the family of Robert Bagnell, who died in June 2004 after officers shocked him with a Taser."

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Taser listed as contributing factor

Aug. 29, 2004

Michael Rosa, 38, Del Rey Oaks, California

Michael Rosa was wandering through yards and screaming. When police approached, he picked up a 2x4 piece of wood and swung it at officers. Police shocked him with a Taser. After being handcuffed. Rosa started having difficulty breathing. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Rosa had a 2003 arrest for cocaine possession. The coroner said Rosa died of a heart attack from methamphetamine intoxication. But he listed Taser as a contributing factor in the death. The coroner says the Taser shock and the struggle with police combined with the drugs led to Rosa’s death.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Coroner: taser pushed for revision of autopsy

August 25, 2004
Robert Anglen, Arizona Republic

A South Carolina coroner says stun-gun manufacturer Taser International is pressuring his office to reverse an autopsy that found a Taser contributed to the death of a man last week.

Anderson County Deputy Coroner Charlie Boseman said a shock from a Taser was the "last straw" for a man who died Aug. 16 in a struggle with deputies at a detention center.

William Teasley, 31, is one of 68 people to die following a police Taser strike since 1999. His death marks the seventh time a medical examiner has linked the stun gun to a death.

"We still feel that way," Boseman said. "That is not going to change."

Tom Smith, president of Scottsdale's Taser International, denied any attempt to change the autopsy. He said two company representatives called the Coroner's Office to see if they could assist in the investigation. "They called to provide information," Smith said, adding that there was no attempt to pressure the coroner. "That was not the intent, not the intent at all."

Boseman said his office and the hospital pathologist who conducted the autopsy received calls from Taser asking that the stun gun be excluded from the report. "They were pretty upset. They didn't like us making that statement in our report," Boseman said. "They just wanted us to (cite) the underlying medical diseases." Teasley suffered from multiple health problems, including an enlarged heart and spleen, hardened arteries and an obstructed airway. "He had really bad cardiac disease. He was a drinker. He had a (tracheotomy)," Boseman said. "I think (the Taser) set him off into cardiac arrest."

The Taser stun gun is marketed as an alternative to deadly force and is used by more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies, including every major police department in the Valley.

For years, Taser officials cited autopsy reports as proof that the stun gun has never caused an injury or death. But an Arizona Republic investigation found that Taser did not possess those autopsy reports.

The newspaper's review of autopsy reports and interviews with medical examiners has linked the stun gun to six other deaths.

Medical examiners in four cases involving suspects who died in police custody cited Tasers as a cause or a contributing factor in the deaths. In two other cases, Tasers could not be ruled out as a cause of death.

Taser has challenged autopsies in these cases, claiming that coroners got it wrong and saying that most medical examiners don't have the experience to examine fatalities following a shock from a stun gun. Taser officials have blamed underlying medical conditions and say the deaths would have occurred with or without the shock from a Taser.

Taser stock price has fallen about $14 since the deaths were first reported in July. Stock that was trading at $40 a month ago was trading at $26.62 on Tuesday.

The Republic, using computer searches, media reports, police reports, autopsy reports and Taser's own records, has identified 68 cases in the United States and Canada of death following a police Taser strike since September 1999.

The paper has requested autopsies for all 68 cases and has so far obtained 23.

Of the 68 cases, records show that nine people were armed when they were shocked with a Taser. Only three cases involved violent assaults or homicides. Most of the cases involve people who were shocked for refusing to obey police commands or who attempted to fight with officers. Drugs were noted in 31 cases and mental illness in 14.

Police said Teasley, who suffered from severe mental and physical health problems since a car accident last year, was arrested on Aug. 16 for disorderly conduct. As Teasley was being booked into jail, he became aggressive and violent. Jail staff shocked him with a Taser, which uses a 50,000-volt charge to incapacitate a suspect. Teasley stopped breathing. Boseman, who has been with the Coroner's Office for 34 years and has worked on hundreds of autopsies, said the cause of Teasley's death was cardiac arrhythmia due to health problems and the Taser shock. "That was the last straw," he said of the Taser.

Smith acknowledged that Taser has disputed findings in autopsies linking Taser to deaths. But he said Tuesday that Taser has not challenged Teasley's case. "It's too early. . . . People need to stop jumping to conclusions," Smith said. "I was talking to investigators today, and there is new information that hasn't come out yet. Such as (Teasley's) fight continued over a minute after the Taser was deployed. . . . That's coming from the officer who fired it."

Smith said Taser officials called to answer any questions the coroner had about the stun gun, including the gun's output. He said Taser has sent representatives to South Carolina to assist in the investigation of Teasley's death, which is being conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division. "I've got people out there in South Carolina helping in the investigation at the request of the investigating team," Smith said. "There has been no pressure. Or nothing related to it."

Monday, August 23, 2004

When Stun Guns Go Bad: After five deaths in one year, police chiefs order an investigation into Taser use

August 23, 2004
Graham F. Scott, Macleans

EARLY LAST WEEK, high and paranoid on cocaine, Samuel Truscott barricaded himself in his Kingston, Ont., bedroom with a knife and a baseball bat, threatening to hurt himself. Police were called, and when pepper spray failed to subdue the 43-year-old man, he was zapped through an open window with a Taser -- the sophisticated stun gun that disrupts muscle control and is used by more than 5,000 police forces worldwide. After being disarmed and searched, Truscott was taken to hospital for an evaluation of his mental health. Within hours he suffered a seizure and died.

Two days later, Ontario's deputy chief coroner reported the cause of death was a drug overdose -- not the stun gun. Still, Dr. James Cairns made it clear he was not yet ready to dismiss Tasers as a factor. How could he? Truscott was the fifth Canadian to die in the past year after being shocked with a police Taser. Formal investigations and coroner inquiries are ramping up in Brampton, Ont., as well as in Vancouver.(In both instances, drugs seemed to have played some role.)And now the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has asked for a full review of the science and techniques of Taser use in Canada and around the world.

All this heightens a controversy that has been on the boil in the United States, where more than 50 deaths have been associated with the device over the past four years. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have issued calls to suspend their use. But Steve Tuttle, VP of communications at Arizona-based Taser International Inc., says such doubts are groundless, citing the more than 50,000 incident-free uses in the field as proof the devices are safe. "Our technology is explicitly designed not to cause fatalities," he says. "We've still not been listed as a direct cause of death."

That's true -- in only a few cases has a Taser been tagged as a contributing factor in a police suspect's death, and it's never been labelled the direct cause. But there is also little scientific consensus on the actual safety of the device, particularly when it's used on addicts or people with heart disease or pacemakers. Dr. Andrew Podgorski tested several early-model stun guns in 1989 at Canada's National Research Council. He found that pigs with implanted pacemakers could die from the electrical shocks. "I published this in a report," says Podgorski. "We suggested to police that maybe they shouldn't use the stun guns because nobody knows who has an implanted pacemaker."

Taser International says it has made significant improvements since then. And police forces believe in the Taser in part because standard training encourages officers to test the jolt on themselves. "It made me feel like I had no control over anything," wrote one officer of the experience, "I could not fight back." Another simply wrote, "Hurt like hell. Dropped like a stone." Edmonton police are one of 62 Canadian forces, including the RCMP, employing Tasers. Const. Shawna Goodkey, who works in the Officer Safety Unit, says the device "actually decreases injury for our subject and our officers out there because they can control somebody within five seconds."

Tasers work by shooting two small metal probes, attached to wires, into the body from up to six metres away. If both probes make contact -- even through several layers of clothes -- then the circuit is completed and the person's muscles are immobilized by 50,000 volts of electricity. That sounds like a lot -- it is -- but a Taser jolt is not the same as sticking your finger in a light socket and receiving a continuous shock. The Taser's zap is intermittent, and lasts five seconds -- just enough to force muscles into a rigid state.

The argument for Tasers is that they're a preferable alternative to guns, at least in situations where suspects are not armed. But police allow there are no silver bullets. Any time force is used, something bad can happen. The question where it comes to stun guns: when is it worth the risk?

Tasers in Canada
The Main Users
RCMP 640
Edmonton Police Services 134
Vancouver Police Department 36
Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Services 24
B.C. Sheriff's Service 55
Court Services Branch, Federal Ministry of Attorney General 53
Alberta Solicitor General's Correctional Branch 18
Tasers in Canada: 62, In U.S.: over 5,400
Number of devices in use in Canada: 1,193
In U.S.: over 100,000
Five in Canada, 50 in U.S., over four years
[SOURCE: Taser International Inc., media reports]

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Pathologist: Taser A Factor In Man's Death At Jail

August 19, 2004

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Fire forced use of taser, Vancouver police say

August 17, 2004

Vancouver -- Almost two months after a man died in Vancouver police custody following a jolt from a stun gun, the department announced yesterday they had no choice because a fire forced them to move quickly.

Police now say a fire at the Continental Hotel forced two officers to move into the washroom where Robert Bagnell, 54, had barricaded himself.

Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard said smoke was filling the building and the officers couldn't stay there.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Fire prompted Taser use, say police

August 16, 2004
CBC News

Vancouver Police have released more details about the events leading to the arrest and death of a 44-year-old man arrested in late June.

Robert Bagnell died in police custody on June 23 after officers used a Taser to subdue him.

But police didn't reveal for another month that Bagnell had been shot with a stun gun.

Now police have have revealed that a fire in the hotel where Bagnell had barricaded himself in a bathroom, forced them to move in and use the Taser.

Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard says officers had planned to wait for Bagnell to calm down – as he was alone, and was in no danger.

"Just as they were settling down to wait, the fire alarm in the building went off, smoke began to fill the building, the police could not stay there any longer and they could certainly could not leave Mr. Bagnell behind."

LePard says two officers tried to remove Bagnell – and used a Taser only as a last resort.

This is the first time since the incident occurred, that police have mentioned there was a fire in the building, or that a fire played a role in the decision to use a Taser.

LePard apologized for not making the information public sooner. "I'm not sure why that information wasn't provided. If it was an oversight, if was our oversight then we apologize for that."

Police have maintained Bagnall had "lethal" levels of cocaine in his bloodstream when he died. However, no official cause of death has been released.

Fire forced use of taser, Vancouver police say

August 16, 2004
Canadian Press

Almost two months after a man died in Vancouver police custody following a jolt from a taser, the force announced Monday they had no choice because a fire forced them to move quickly.

Police now say a fire at the Continental Hotel forced two officers to move into the washroom where Robert Bagnell, 54, had barricaded himself.

Deputy Chief Const. Doug LePard said smoke was filling the building and the officers couldn't stay there.

“They certainly couldn't leave Mr. Bagnell behind. The call to arrest Mr. Bagnell had now turned into a rescue.”

He said usually police would have just waited until the man was ready to come out.

“That would be our normal strategy, is to wait the guy out. There would be no reason to intervene.”

Mr. Bagnell was zapped twice with a Taser during the arrest and stopped breathing.

Ambulance attendants tried for more than an hour to revive the man.

His death prompted the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner to order a review into the use of the taser to subdue suspects.

Last week, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police announced it has commissioned a comprehensive review of research, reports and data on the use of tasers in Canada and around the world.

The review will be conducted by the Canadian Police Research Centre, a partnership of the chiefs association, the RCMP and the National Research Council.

At least six people have died in Canada after being shocked by tasers.

The public and Mr. Bagnell's family only learned a taser was involved in Mr. Bagnell's death a month after he died.

The Deputy Chief couldn't say Monday why it took even longer to release the details of Mr. Bagnell's arrest.

“If it was an oversight then we apologize for that. Because obviously that is important information.”

Mr. Bagnell was experiencing a “psychotic episode,” which Deputy Chief LePard said was likely triggered by cocaine.

“My understanding is that he would have died from the level of cocaine that was in his blood stream at time. Whether or not that's what killed him we do not know.”

When police moved into the fifth floor washroom where Mr. Bagnell had barricaded himself, he was naked and covered in blood because of a cut to his leg.

Mr. LePard says the two officers tried to calm him down, but he grabbed on to fixtures in the bathroom and refused to leave.

“The situation was urgent. Smoke continued to fill the building. In order to get Mr. Bagnell to release his grip the officers touched Mr. Bagnell with the Taser for less than two seconds.”

A report has been provided to Crown counsel to review if charges are necessary.

VPD - Follow-up to In Custody Death of Robert Bagnell

Almost TWO MONTHS after Bob died, the VPD suddenly announced that there was a fire in the building the night Bob died and that tasers had to be used to "rescue" him from this burning building!! We have since learned that the *fire* was a small electrical fire from a faulty cable box in a first-floor apartment and that it posed no credible to threat to anyone beyond the first floor. At the coroner's inquest, some of the police officers testified that they saw and/or smelled smoke from the fifth floor. Others testified that they did not. However, all agreed that the fire alarm made communication among each other difficult and that the fire posed a significant danger to Bob's life. They were quite adamant that this "wood-framed" building would go up in flames very quickly. We visited the building with our lawyer and with CBC and we learned that it was a solid brick city-owned and frequently inspected building.

Not long before the VPD made this announcement, my mother asked of their police officers why they didn't just leave Bob in the washroom until he tired himself out since he wasn't a danger to anyone. The officer's answer? "That's a very good question, Mrs. Bagnell."

Here's what the VPD had to say 54 days after Bob's death.

August 16, 2004
Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard
Vancouver Police Department

"As you are aware, B.C.`s Police Complaints Commissioner has ordered a review of the use of the Taser by BC police departments and, specifically, the use of it in connection with the in-custody death of Robert Bagnell on June 23rd.

When police were called to 1390 Granville St. (the Continental Hotel), they heard banging, crashing and yelling coming from a 5th floor communal bathroom. An ambulance attendant told them that the man inside, Robert Bagnell, was believed to have taken cocaine earlier. Police did not rush in.

Since Mr. Bagnell was alone in the washroom and was little danger to anyone else, police were prepared to wait. In the meantime, they called for less than lethal options, including a Taser and a beanbag shotgun. Shortly after, Emergency Response Team members arrived with that equipment.

The officers on the scene believed that Mr. Bagnell was experiencing a psychotic episode possibly triggered by cocaine. The banging and yelling coming from the washroom did not let up. Police tried calling to Mr. Bagnell, but were ignored.

Mr. Bagnell was alone. He was no danger to anyone else. There was no chance he could escape and hurt anyone. He was possibly committing a minor criminal act of destruction in the bathroom, but there was still no reason to rush in. Our members decided the safest course of action was to wait and hope Mr. Bagnell calmed down. Then things changed.

Just as they were settling down to wait, the fire alarm in the building went off. There was a fire on the ground floor of the hotel. Smoke began to fill the building. The police could not stay there any longer and they could certainly not leave Mr. Bagnell behind. The call to arrest Mr. Bagnell had now turned into a rescue.

When police entered the bathroom, they found Mr. Bagnell naked and covered in fresh blood from a wound to his leg. The floor was covered in blood and sweat and shards of broken porcelain were within his reach as he continued to yell and thrash.

Police attempted to calm him and use a low level of force to remove him by pulling on his feet, but he grabbed onto the fixtures in the bathroom stall and held on. Two large officers working together could not dislodge him. The situation was urgent. Smoke continued to fill the building.

In order to get Mr. Bagnell to release his grip, the officers touched Mr. Bagnell with the Taser for less than two seconds and he let go. Police were able to pull him back about a foot before he got another grip on the door frame. The Taser was applied again for less than a second and he released his grip.

As he was pulled into the hallway, he continued to fight as he was handcuffed. People suffering psychotic episodes driven by cocaine can often exhibit extraordinary strength and be oblivious to pain. He was kicking so hard that flexible restraints broke when police tried to restrain his feet with them.

Soon after he was restrained, police noticed that he had stopped breathing. Nearby ambulance attendants ran over and immediately began CPR. Ambulance and fire personnel tried for more than an hour to revive him, but were unsuccessful.

As you are aware, a toxicologist report later indicated that Mr. Bagnell had lethal levels of cocaine in his blood, along with a cocktail of other drugs."