December 14, 2005
By ALEX BERENSON, New York Times
The Securities and Exchange Commission has decided not to take action against Taser International in connection with statements about the safety of its electric stun pistols, the company said yesterday.
Taser's shares jumped 15 percent on the news, though they remain far below the highs they set a year ago. They closed at $7.04, up 92 cents. They closed at $32.59 on Dec. 30 last year.
The company's pistols, called Tasers, which are widely used by police to subdue suspects, have been associated with more than 140 deaths. The weapons fire electrified barbs up to 25 feet, delivering a painful 50,000-volt shock.
Taser's sales and profits soared in 2004, but the company's profits have plunged this year as controversy over the safety of its weapons has grown. In November, an influential police research group recommended new restrictions on the use of the weapons, suggesting that officers be allowed to use them only on people who are actively resisting arrest.
Last month, Taser said it would have to restate its profits for the first half of 2005 because it had failed to properly record its legal and professional expenses during that period. The company also failed to file its third-quarter financial statements within the Nasdaq's deadline for filing, leading the Nasdaq to warn that Taser stock would be delisted. Taser has appealed the delisting requirement.
In January, Taser announced that the S.E.C. had begun an investigation into the company's statements about the safety of its stun guns and a sales order that it announced in late December 2004. Taser said in a statement yesterday that S.E.C. enforcement officials had told the company that they had completed the investigation and had decided against taking action against the company.
Taser also said that the S.E.C. was ''continuing to investigate issues relating to trading in the company's stock.''
As a matter of policy, the S.E.C. does not comment on its investigations.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
December 14, 2005
Saturday, December 10, 2005
December 10, 2005
ROBERT MATAS, Globe & Mail
Officers' actions 'necessary and reasonable'
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver police will not face criminal charges for using the controversial taser stun gun in an incident 18 months ago that led to the death of 44-year-old Robert Bagnell, a spokesman for B.C. Crown counsel said yesterday.
"A thorough review by senior members of the criminal justice branch determined that charges were not warranted," Stan Lowe said in an interview. "Based on all the available evidence, the officers acted within the scope of their duties and their actions were necessary and reasonable."
Mr. Bagnell was shot at repeatedly, possibly with more than one taser gun, during an incident on June 23, 2004, in a residential hotel in central Vancouver. At least five police officers were believed to be in the room at the time of his death. His family has been trying for 18 months to find out what happened in that room.
Yesterday, Mr. Bagnell's sister Patti Gillman questioned the basis for the decision not to lay charges.
"I do not know how they can draw that conclusion given the evidence we've seen," she said in an interview from Trenton, Ont. "We believe they made that decision on incomplete and contradictory evidence."
A police report provided to the family shows information about the use of the gun was incomplete, she said. "They don't have anything to go on, as to information on which taser was used, when it was used, by whom it was used."
Ms. Gillman also questioned the credibility of the information. "The report states the weapons were secured adequately at the scene and that's not true. They were not secured until a day or two after the fact," she said.
"We hope the inquest will give us a little more insight into what did happen that night. But, so far, we still do not know what happened."
The taser gun, which emits a 50,000-volt electrical charge, is at the centre of an international controversy over how police should deal with potentially violent people. Police say the gun is an effective weapon that saves lives in confrontations. Its critics, including Amnesty International, say the gun has not been tested sufficiently and has caused several deaths.
Police initially told Mr. Bagnell's family that he had stopped breathing when they tried to subdue him, and they did not mention the use of the taser gun. But a month later, police revealed a taser stun gun had been used. A few weeks after that, police said the taser was used to rescue Mr. Bagnell from a fire. The family later discovered the fire was a minor electrical fault on a different floor of the hotel.
Mr. Lowe dismissed concerns about the investigation. "It is the view of senior Crown counsel [that] it was a thorough and comprehensive investigation," he said, adding that prosecutors would have pushed for a further investigation if they had any concerns.
The decision not to lay charges was based on a review by senior staff in the regional office and a second review at headquarters in Victoria, he said. The police report on the incident was submitted to the regional prosecutors' office on May 25, 11 months after the death. Senior management in Victoria received the report on July 15.
The prosecutors concluded that Vancouver police had a right to arrest and take Mr. Bagnell into custody, Mr. Lowe said.
Also, prosecutors decided that it was reasonable to use the taser gun.
Vancouver Police spokesman Howard Chow also dismissed concerns about the internal report, saying that no one had suggested previously that it was incomplete or contradictory. He noted that a date has not yet been set for the coroner's inquest, and that the Public Complaints Commissioner can still call an public inquiry.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
December 1, 2005
Petti Fong, Globe and Mail
VANCOUVER -- Autopsy results show Roman Andreichikov was a slight, smaller-than-average man, but to the four police officers who struggled to subdue him while he was under a cocaine-induced psychosis, he looked massive.
Mr. Andreichikov, a onetime fitness trainer, was so strong and unwilling to comply with police commands that he bucked off a 175-pound (80-kilogram) police officer with his legs while two others held down his upper body.
Three of the officers testifying at a coroner's inquest into Mr. Andreichikov's death said they gauged his height to be at least 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 metres) and his weight at more than 200 pounds.
All the officers were surprised to hear while they were testifying that Mr. Andreichikov was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 168 pounds (76 kilograms).
"He was extremely strong, even face down," Constable Brian McKeddie said at the inquest yesterday. "It took 15 to 20 seconds to get the handcuffs on and we had a lot of difficulty holding him."
When police responded to a 911 call that Mr. Andreichikov was suicidal, the man looked so massive and imposing that within seconds of seeing him sitting on a couch, Vancouver Police Constable Darren Hall said he decided to draw his taser from its holster.
When Constable Hall and his partner, Constable Mark Bouchey, entered the Granville Street apartment on May 1, 2004, Mr. Andreichikov, 25, was upset and on the fifth day of a cocaine binge. A friend had called to say Mr. Andreichikov had attempted to commit suicide twice that day.
In his testimony, Constable Hall said he tried to control Mr. Andreichikov's legs while two other officers, who arrived moments later, attempted to control his upper body. But Constable Hall, who is 5 feet 11 inches and 175 pounds, said Mr. Andreichikov easily lifted the officer off him with his legs and threw him about 60 centimetres.
The five-person jury is hearing evidence in the inquest about the circumstances that led Constable Hall to use his taser. Mr. Andreichikov stopped breathing and died within moments of being hit with two electrical shocks.
Constable Hall said after he was thrown off, he showed Constable Bouchey a better technique to control the man's lower body, but the other police officer still had trouble.
At 6 feet 3 inches and 220 pounds, Constable Bouchey was larger than Mr. Andreichikov.
Constable Hall said that when he and his partner first entered the apartment and saw Mr. Andreichikov, he didn't have time to gauge the man's height and weight adequately. He was more concerned, he told the jury, about the man's agitated state.
"I could see how hard he was flexing his body. He wasn't sitting still. He was shaking and vibrating," Constable Hall said. "With the clenching of the jaw, the fast breathing, the sounds. It was hard to describe. It was so primal."
The officer said based on his experience he believed the man was in a drug-induced psychosis.
Constable Hall said he once saw a 300-pound police officer, one of the biggest guys on the force, lose a physical encounter with a 130-pound teenager in a similar agitated state. It took six police officers to control the skinny youth.
In his testimony, Constable Hall, who had received his taser 10 days before the May 1 incident and was testing it in the field, said he tried to calm Mr. Andreichikov. He said he feared that the man was going to run for the balcony and try to leap off again.
In earlier testimony, Rahim Hadani said he visited Mr. Andreichikov that day and got caught in the middle of a fight he was having with his girlfriend. Mr. Hadani persuaded the girlfriend to leave and tried to calm his friend down. But twice, Mr. Hadani said, he had to plead with his friend to come back inside after he threatened to jump from the balcony.
Mr. Hadani said that as three officers were on top of Mr. Andreichikov and pressing his face on the carpet, his friend said he couldn't breathe. But an officer responded that if he was mumbling, he was breathing.
Constable Hall testified that when an officer alerted him that Mr. Andreichikov had stopped breathing, he tried to clear the man's airways. He said he never heard Mr. Andreichikov complain about not being able to breathe.
Two other officers who testified yesterday said they did not hear any complaints from the victim.
In fact, Constable Hall said the man was incoherent during the encounter. Constable Hall fired two shots of 50,000 volts each at Mr. Andreichikov.
Jurors have not yet heard toxicology results, but his family has said they did not know Mr. Andreichikov was an active drug user.
His girlfriend, Jamie Layno, who had testified at the start of the inquest this week, said Mr. Andreichikov had been using cocaine for five days straight and suffering from paranoia and delusions.
The Vancouver Police have faced criticism from families of victims and some community-rights groups over the use of tasers to subdue individuals.
Just one month after Mr. Andreichikov's death, another man, Robert Bagnell, died after he was hit with a taser.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
November 30, 2005
PETTI FONG, Globe and Mail
Vancouver — Roman Andreichikov was so strong and unwilling to comply with police commands that he bucked off a 175-pound police officer with his legs while two others held down his upper body, a coroner's inquest heard Tuesday.
When police responded to a 911 call that Mr. Andreichikov was suicidal, the fitness trainer looked so massive and imposing that within seconds of seeing him sitting on a couch, Vancouver police Constable Dave Hall said he decided to draw his taser from its holster.
Constable Hall and his partner Marc Bouchey entered the Granville Street apartment when Mr. Andreichikov, 25, was upset and on Day 5 of a cocaine binge. A friend had called to say the fitness trainer had attempted to commit suicide twice.
On the witness stand Tuesday at the inquest into Mr. Andreichikov's death on May 1, 2004, Constable Hall said he tried to control Mr. Andreichikov's legs while two other officers who arrived moments later attempted to control his upper body.
But Constable Hall, who is 5'11 inches and 175 pounds, said Mr. Andreichikov easily lifted the officer off him with his legs and threw him about two feet.
The five-person jury is hearing evidence in the inquest about the circumstances that led Constable Hall to use his taser.
Mr. Andreichikov stopped breathing and died within moments of being hit with two electrical shocks.
Constable Hall said after he was thrown off and then showed Constable Bouchey a better technique to control the man's lower body, the other police officer still had trouble.
At 220 pounds and 6'3 inches, Constable Bouchey was larger than Mr. Andreichikov, who Constable Hall said he at first believed was about the same weight as his partner at 220 pounds, but six inches shorter.
Autopsy results showed Mr. Andreichikov was 5'6 inches and 160 pounds.
But Constable Hall said that when he and his partner first entered the apartment and saw Mr. Andreichikov, he didn't have time to gauge the man's height and weight adequately. He was more concerned, he told the jury, about the man's agitated state.
“I could see how hard he was flexing his body. He wasn't sitting still. He was shaking and vibrating,” said Constable Hall. “With the clenching of the jaw, the fast breathing, the sounds. It was hard to describe. It was so primal.”
The officer said based on his experience, he believed the man was in a drug-induced psychosis.
Constable Hall said he once saw a 300-pound police officer, one of the biggest guys on the police force, lose a physical encounter with a 130-pound teenager in a similar agitated state. It took six police officers to control the skinny youth.
In his day-long testimony, Constable Hall, who had received his taser 10 days before the May 1 incident and was testing it in the field, said he tried to calm Mr. Andreichikov. He said he feared that the man was going to run for the balcony and try to leap off again.
Rahim Hadani said he visited Mr. Andreichikov that day and got caught in the middle of a fight he was having with his girlfriend. Mr. Hadani convinced the girlfriend to leave and tried to calm his friend down, but twice, Mr. Hadani said he had to plead with his friend to come back inside after he threatened to jump from the balcony.
In his testimony earlier, Mr. Hadani said that as three officers were on Mr. Andreichikov and pressed his face on the carpet, his friend said he couldn't breathe. But an officer responded that if he was mumbling, he was breathing.
Constable Hall testified that when an officer alerted him that Mr. Andreichikov had stopped breathing, he tried to clear the man's airways. He said he never heard Mr. Andreichikov complain about not being able to breathe.
In fact, Constable Hall said the man was incoherent during the encounter. Constable Hall fired two shots of 50,000 volts each at Mr. Andreichikov.
Jurors have not heard yet what caused Mr. Andreichikov's death. The Vancouver police has faced criticism over its use of tasers in subduing individuals by families of victims and some community rights groups.
Just one month after Mr. Andreichikov's death, another man, Robert Bagnell died after he was tasered.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
November 29, 2005
PETTI FONG, Globe & Mail
VANCOUVER -- Personal trainer Roman Andreichikov was on Day 5 of a cocaine binge when, paranoid and distraught over the mistaken idea his girlfriend starred in a porn movie, he tried to jump over his apartment balcony twice.
But his suicide attempts failed, and when a friend called 911 for help, police arrived. The first officer through the door of the apartment had his taser ready for firing.
A coroner's inquest into Mr. Andreichikov's death on May 1, 2004, began yesterday, reopening the debate about police use of tasers. Just one month after Mr. Andreichikov, 25, stopped breathing in his apartment after a taser shot in the chest, Robert Wayne Bagnell, 44, died shortly after he was hit with a taser.
In both cases, police said they were dealing with individuals in cocaine-induced psychosis.
It took four officers to subdue Mr. Andreichikov, a part-time model and personal trainer who was so fit, a friend described him as looking "pumped all the time."
One officer held Mr. Andreichikov's head down on the carpet, another had his knee pressed against the slight but muscular man's back, a third officer handcuffed him and a fourth was holding his legs. Even then, Mr. Andreichikov proved too strong for police.
Testifying at the inquest, Mr. Andreichikov's friend, Rahim Hadini, said he talked the victim back from the ledge when he twice tried to leap from his balcony. When Mr. Hadini first arrived to visit his friend, Mr. Andreichikov was paranoid and fighting with his girlfriend, Jaimie Layno, accusing her of being in a porn movie.
Mr. Hadini said he persuaded Ms. Layno to leave and tried to talk to Mr. Andreichikov, who was dry-mouthed and incoherent. After Mr. Andreichikov tried to jump off the ledge, Mr. Hadini said he called for an ambulance and police showed up. After ordering Mr. Andreichikov to lie down, police tried to subdue him and shot him with a taser gun.
"He was screaming and mumbling that he couldn't breathe," Mr. Hadini said. "The guy holding his head to the carpet said if you're mumbling, you're breathing." A moment later, Mr. Hadini said, his friend was unconscious.
Police statements described Mr. Andreichikov as being like a caged wild animal, who, even after being shot with the taser gun, resisted attempts to subdue him by yelling, kicking and shaking his arms uncontrollably.
Kevin Woodall, the lawyer representing the officer who shot the taser gun, said Mr. Hadini's statement indicates the exchange about whether Mr. Andreichikov was still breathing and the response that if he was mumbling, he still had breath, was actually made between two officers and not between the victim and an officer.
In the past two years, five people in B.C. have died after being shocked with a taser, and the province's chief coroner has called on police to look for other ways to deal with people in a condition known as "excited delirium."
The five-person coroner's jury hasn't yet heard any evidence about toxicology results for Mr. Andreichikov. His girlfriend testified yesterday that he had been using cocaine in each of the five days before his death.
Ms. Layno said she begged Mr. Andreichikov to quit and even tried at one point to get him into a rehabilitation program. She left their apartment on May 1 after their friend convinced her to leave for a couple of hours. When she received a frantic phone call to come home, she arrived just in time to see her boyfriend's body being wheeled out.
Earlier this fall, the Victoria police department released a report on taser use recommending more training and to use it only when a person is actively resisting arrest or poses a threat to others. The report also recommended a person shocked by a taser should be restrained in a way that allows the individual to breathe easily.
Mr. Andreichikov's mother, Diana Andreichikov, said there is no reason why tasers should ever be used.
"He was never violent in his life. He was never dangerous to anybody," said Ms. Andreichikov outside the inquest. She admitted to being shocked to hear her son was using drugs.
Friday, November 25, 2005
November 25, 2005
What constitutes excessive force is a central issue at the trial of two Halifax police officers who are charged with assaulting a female prisoner with a Taser gun.
One night in September 2004, two police officers arrested Suzanne Silver for allegedly uttering death threats. She claims that veteran constables John Hope and Mark Galloway pushed their way into her mother's house and manhandled her.
By the time Silver was brought into the booking area at police headquarters, she was in a rage. As police surveillance cameras rolled, Silver launched into an uninterrupted tirade against the officers.
Then one of the officers threatened to use a Taser on her.
The hand-held stun guns deliver a jolt of electricity from up to 6.5 metres away. The shot can penetrate up to five centimetres of clothing, immobilizing the person targeted.
Silver was taken to a holding cell, where an altercation occurred. She claims she was hit with a Taser four times.
Galloway and Hope are charged with assault and committing an assault by carrying, using or threatening to use a weapon.
Crown attorney Darrell Carmichael says the case revolves around two questions:
"The first issue is whether the police officers entered that home lawfully and so were entitled to use force against Suzanne Silver, and the second issue is, if they were entitled to use force, did they use no more than reasonable force," he said.
One of the defence lawyers, Pat Duncan, says the officers acted properly.
"The defence will be advocating to the court that the arrest was lawful and that any use of force was appropriate to the circumstance," she said.
The trial has heard only the Crown's case. The two officers are expected to testify in their own defence when it resumes.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
November 10, 2005
An Ottawa police officer was found guilty Wednesay of "unnecessary exercise of authority." The Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services heard evidence from a man who was shot with a taser at a demonstration two years ago.
Paul Smith had arrived at a demonstration outside the office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada in downtown Ottawa just after 9 p.m., May 29, 2003.
About 50 people had turned out to protest the plight of 10 Algerian refugee claimants inside the office. Smith says he was taking pictures from the sidelines when two officers approached him.
"I have witnesses who say I wasn't doing anything. This guy wanted to get a protester," Smith says.
The commission heard that one officer held and handcuffed Smith, and then asked for help from another officer. That's when Sgt. Paulo Batista arrived and shot Smith with a taser gun as he lay on the ground. Smith was jolted a second time as he was dragged toward a police cruiser.
An internal police investigation originally cleared both officers. But Smith appealed that decision, and, on Wednesday, the independent commission found Batista guilty of using unnecessary force when he tasered Smith. The other officer was found "not guilty."
Smith's lawyer, Matthew McGarvey, says the process for people in Smith's situation is stacked in favour of the police.
For Paul Smith, there is no financial settlement attached to Wednesday's ruling. But, he says, it's reward enough to be vindicated.
Monday, October 31, 2005
October 31, 2005
Elizabeth MacDonald, Forbes
New court documents contain awkward disclosures for the president of stun gun maker Taser International.
Taser International, The Under-siege stun gun maker whose stock soared sixtyfold in three years only to plunge 80% amid short-seller raids, shareholder class actions and wrongful- death lawsuits, has had another shock to the system.
Newly unsealed court documents in a personal injury case against Taser have President Thomas Smith detailing which current and former cops got stock options in Taser in exchange for essentially endorsing its line of guns, which temporarily paralyze suspects with a blast of electrical currents.
The options controversy first erupted in 2004, when President George W. Bush picked Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, to run the Homeland Security Department. It then emerged that Taser had paid Kerik 85,000 options to join its board. Kerik says he promoted the gun to law enforcement and made more than $6 million on the options. Taser had repeatedly refused to disclose which other cops got the stock incentives.
But in September an Arizona state court judge unsealed records in a lawsuit filed by SECInsight, a research firm in Plymouth, Minn., And the Arizona Republicnewspaper. The records show Taser handed out almost 30,000 stock options to 11 people from 2001 to 2003, when Taser shares ranged from a low of 31 cents to a high of $8. The options, valued at $210,000 when they were issued, would have risen in value as Taser shares climbed as high as $33 by December 2004.
Seven of the 11 recipients are current and former police officers: All were in cities that bought stun guns.In Seattle, Wash. and Chandler and Glendale, Ariz. police departments bought Tasers during the options handouts. In Sacramento, Calif., New York City and Austin, Tex. departments had bought the stun guns before the cops got involved. The officers could not be reached for comment. Victoria, B.C. also bought Tasers.
Five of the cops served on a Taser advisory board on training police departments nationwide to use the stun gun, resulting in some sales. One officer in Chandler was accused by his superiors of a conflict of interest; the complaint was dropped. Still, "How can it not be a conflict of interest for Taser to use options as payola to police officers or medical experts, who then plug the company's product?" says John Gavin, president of SEC Insight.
The disclosures are another annoyance for Taser, of Scottsdale, Ariz., which also contends with an accounting investigation by the Securities & Exchange Commission, two class actions and 32 personal-injury torts, 13 of which allege wrongful deaths.
The latest court filings also show Taser gave 775 stock options to Darren Laur, a Victoria law enforcement official, for designing a gun holster. Laur co-wrote two medical reports praising the safety of the stun gun. Taser touts both reports on its Web site without revealing that Laur held options. Laur, who exercised and sold his options in 2003, says he made his superiors aware of his holdings and made the disclosure in a separate study.
Smith defends the options payments, saying Taser "didn't have the cash flow needed to pay these officers to do free training work." He also admitted in court that he didn't know whether Taser has a code of ethics or what it says. For that he need only read the Taser Web site:It says all employees are expected to read, understand and uphold the ethics policy and "avoid situations where a conflict of interest might occur."
Saturday, October 15, 2005
CACOLE Conference, Montreal
Presentation by Victoria Chief of Police Paul Battershill
Friday, October 14, 2005
October 14, 2005
By Bill Harless, Nashville City Paper
The state and Metro investigation of the Sept. 24 death of Patrick Lee has concluded, officials announced Friday.
The cause of death of Patrick Lee has been ruled as "Excited Delirium" and the manner of death could not be determined, according to a statement released jointly by the state and Metro medical examiners offices.
Lee died of cardiac arrest at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center a day after police shot him multiple times with a Taser the previous night at the Mercy Lounge music club.
Excited delirium is a condition under which "people who are under the influence of certain drugs or suffer from some types of mental illness suffer a cardiorespiratory arrest after a period of agitated and bizarre behavior," the statement said.
"This sudden cardiorespiratory arrest typically occurs after the person is subdued and restrained by either law enforcement or medical personnel, and happens with the use of many different restraint techniques."
LSD and marijuana were found in Lee's blood. "LSD intoxication is a known cause of excited delirium," the statement said.
"There is no evidence that any of the restraint techniques used that night on Mr. Lee by the Metro Police, including the Taser, directly caused Mr. Lee's cardiac arrest and death," said Davidson County medical examiner Bruce Levy in the statement.
"However, the combined effects of multiple applications of the Taser, pepper spray and physical force on someone in excited delirium are unclear and require additional research."
Police chief Ronald Serpas has directed the department to develop a "best practices" guide for officers when they encounter people with excited delirium.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
October 1, 2005
Beth DeFalco, Associated Press
Taser International Inc. has voluntarily changed some of its broad safety claims and limited its use of the word "non-lethal" in an effort to appease Arizona officials concerned about possibly misleading marketing, officials said Wednesday.
The move by the nation's largest maker of stun guns comes as the Securities and Exchange Commission investigates the company and as the Arizona Attorney General's Office conducts its own inquiry into safety claims.
On Tuesday, Taser said the SEC had stepped up an informal inquiry and was conducting an expanded official investigation of claims Taser has made about safety studies; an end-of-year sale analysts have questioned because it appeared to inflate sales to meet annual projections; and the possibility that outsiders acquired internal company information to manipulate the stock price.
In January, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said his office was probing claims Taser has made about safety studies on its products.
Taser President Tom Smith said company officials met with the Attorney General's Office several times since January and have made changes to the way they characterize the weapon's safety to consumers.
According to Taser and the Attorney General's Office, the stun gun maker submitted a list of language changes the company has already made, including an 18-point "product warning."
Among the changes, Taser explains that it uses the term non-lethal as defined by the Department of Defense - which doesn't mean the weapon can't cause death, but that it's not intended to be fatal.
Other changes include substituting the phrase "leave no lasting after effects" to "are more effective and safer than other use-of-force options."
Taser began marketing police stun guns in 1998 as a way to subdue combative people in high-risk situations. Now, more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies and military installations use them worldwide.
But critics say the stun guns have been used too liberally by police and have contributed to scores of deaths. Amnesty International has compiled a list of more than 100 people the group says have died after being shocked in scuffles with lawmen.
Taser maintains that no deaths have been directly caused by the weapon alone.
Company shares fell 47 cents, or 7.4 percent, to close at $5.88 Wednesday on the Nasdaq Stock Market, a new 52-week low.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 28, 2005 12:00 AM
On the same day Taser International confirmed federal regulators are investigating the company, Arizona's attorney general said the stun gun manufacturer has agreed to change the way it markets its gun.
Attorney General Terry Goddard's office said Tuesday that Taser has offered to increase product warnings, change some of its broad claims of safety and limit the use of the word "non-lethal."
"Our primary concern has been Taser's safety claims that we felt may have understated the risks of serious harm," Goddard said in a statement to The Arizona Republic. "We are encouraged that the company has agreed to make many changes that reduce or qualify these claims. We are now reviewing these proposed changes."
Scottsdale-based Taser has armed nearly a fifth of America's law enforcement agencies with the electric stun guns. Company officials contacted Tuesday said they did not wish to comment on the marketing changes or on any meetings with Goddard's office.
His office has been looking into Taser's safety claims since January, when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it was launching an informal inquiry into Taser's safety claims and into a sale last year that bolstered company earnings at the end of the quarter.
On Tuesday, Taser disclosed that the SEC had turned its informal inquiry into an investigation that will give federal regulators subpoena powers.
Taser has known about the investigation for a least a week. It disclosed the probe in a news release after being questioned Monday by The Republic. Taser's disclosure had an immediate impact on Taser stocks, sending the price of shares to their lowest level since November 2003.
Taser Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith said Tuesday that the company will cooperate with federal regulators.
"We recognize that this has been a difficult process for our employees and shareholders," Smith said in a prepared statement. "We continue to make all efforts to assist the SEC in completing their investigation as expeditiously as possible."
Smith also said the SEC is expanding its investigation, examining the possibility that internal documents have been leaked to unspecified parties in an attempt to manipulate Taser's stock price.
"We are hopeful that the expanded SEC investigation will address all pertinent issues," Smith said.
For months, Taser officials have maintained that they did nothing wrong. In January, Smith predicted the federal inquiry would come out in the company's favor.
The SEC's action is the latest challenge for the company, which has seen sales of its popular stun gun slow this year after a number of deaths that left police agencies across the country rethinking Taser purchases and, in some cases, taking the gun off the street.
Goddard's office said Taser's proposed marketing changes include an 18-point "product warning" that stresses the Taser should be used only by trained individuals and acknowledges the gun's potential danger.
In a memo to Goddard's office, Taser agreed to change the ways it promotes its gun in both training materials and on its Web site. Among those changes:
• Minimizing the use of the term "non-lethal" to describe the weapon. As part of its proposal, Taser also has agreed to include a disclaimer that the company is taking the term "non-lethal" from the Department of Defense and does not mean the weapon can't be fatal.
• Acknowledging much more prominently that the stun gun can be dangerous.
• Changing the way it uses the term "safe." A description that describes the stun gun as a "safer, effective device" will be changed to "safer use-of-force alternative."
• Limiting medical claims. Materials that say "medical experts confirm Taser is safe" will be changed to "medical experts confirming the lifesaving value of Taser technology."
• Changing descriptions that suggest Taser is harmless. Materials that say Tasers "leave no lasting after-affects" will be changed to "are more effective and safer than other use-of-force options."
One of Taser's chief critics, Amnesty International, said the changes suggest more scrutiny is being given to the firm.
"Amnesty has long held that there have been a number of very serious questions about the safety of this product that remain unanswered," Amnesty spokesman Edward Jackson said. "Now, it seems like the tide is turning and more and more credible bodies are weighing in on the issue."
Jackson said he is concerned that changes to Taser's marketing should have been made long before the weapon was put into the hands of police officers.
A Taser, which resembles a plastic gun, uses electricity to override the nervous system and incapacitate a suspect.
It normally works by firing two darts from distances of up to 21 feet.
Although the company has repeatedly said its stun guns have never caused a death or serious injury, The Republic has linked them to 18 deaths and to the injuries of several police officers. The officers say the injuries occurred when they were shocked during mandatory training exercises.
Since 1999, there have been at least 144 deaths following police Taser strikes in the United States and Canada.
Of those, medical examiners cited Tasers as a cause of death in four cases and a contributing factor in 10 others. In four other cases, medical examiners said Taser could not be ruled out as a cause of death.
Taser has gone from a family business to the nation's largest supplier of stun guns. It has armed nearly 8,000 U.S. police agencies with Tasers and has made millions for investors.
But news of the initial SEC inquiry caused stock prices to drop in January and resulted in a flurry of shareholder lawsuits.
Last year, Taser stock rose 361 percent and split three times, peaking in November at more than $30 a share.
On Tuesday, stock prices fell to $6.35.
When the SEC inquiry was first announced, Taser President Tom Smith said regulators questioned the release of a statement in 2004 touting an independent Defense Department study that purportedly found Tasers were safe.
Taser's statement seemed to increase stock prices just before executives and directors sold $68 million in shares in November.
When the full Defense Department study was released this year, it was revealed that Taser was involved in nearly every aspect of the study, raising questions about its independence. In addition, government researchers involved in the study said they never looked at safety.
Smith said the SEC was also looking into the sale of 1,000 consumer model stun guns to a Prescott firearms company. Taser announced the sale on Dec. 20, just 11 days before the end of Taser's quarter. The sale appeared to help the company meet its projected earnings.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
September 24, 2005
Robert Anglen, The Arizona Republic
Taser International gave potentially lucrative stock options to six police officers from 2001 to 2003, most of whom promoted Taser's stun guns and, in some cases, urged their cities to buy them.
Court documents released this week show that officers in Arizona, California, Washington, Texas, and Canada received thousands of company stock options, some only weeks after urging police commanders or city officials to purchase Tasers.
Four of the six officers are now employed by Scottsdale-based Taser International, which is facing state and federal inquiries over the safety of its stun gun and the weapon's involvement in deaths across the country. advertisement
The stock options, as well as payments to other officers for Taser training, have sparked concerns about potential conflicts of interest. Critics say Taser paid officers to influence cities to get them to purchase the stun guns.
"We've raised concerns about Taser's options-granting practices since this past January," stock analyst John Gavin of SEC Insight wrote in a report to investors this week.
Other critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say payments to police officers have created a conflict of interest, with officers promoting the stun gun and repeating Taser's assurances of safety while minimizing risks.
Taser officials issued a news release Thursday defending the police officers and denying any conflict.
"The officers on our (training) board were involved in training operations at their respective departments - not the purchasing departments," Taser Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith said in the news release. "They followed all relevant conflict-of-interest regulations at their departments, and the grant of stock options did not violate Taser's code of ethics nor industry norms."
The information concerning the stock options was released this week after Taser lost a legal challenge to seal documents from a lawsuit against Taser filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Taser asked the court to keep confidential the deposition of company President Tom Smith, arguing that his answers about who received stock options was proprietary. The Arizona Republic and SEC Insight both filed motions to keep the records open, arguing that information about Taser is vital to the public's interest.
The court agreed, and Taser did not appeal.
According to Republic research, medical examiners in 18 cases have said Tasers were a cause, a contributing factor or could not be ruled out in someone's death.
The newly released documents for the first time reveal who outside the company received stock options.
The six active-duty officers who received options were from police departments in Chandler and Glendale, Seattle, Sacramento, Austin and Victoria, British Columbia. Records show all but the Austin officer promoted the effectiveness of the weapons and some urged their cities to purchase them.
Five other individuals also were issued stock options: a retired New York police officer; a former United Airlines employee; Taser's current medical director; a lawyer who did patent work for Taser, and his assistant. New York, Austin and United Airlines purchased Tasers, but it's unclear if the employees played a role in the decision.
The options could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on when they were exercised and sold.
The 11 individuals received a total of 27,671 options. It is not known when each person exercised and sold his options.
In its news release, Taser defends giving options to officers. Rick Smith says the officers were not being rewarded but being compensated for serving on Taser's Master Instructor Training Board, which advises Taser on law enforcement training programs.
"It should be noted that none of the board members were in a position to approve product purchases," Smith said. "Every one of their agencies had already purchased and deployed Taser devices prior to their joining our advisory training board."
Public records show that one of the officers, former Chandler police Officer Jim Halsted, received 500 stock options a year before he urged the City Council to spend $193,000 on Tasers. Halsted, now a regional sales manager for Taser, was later investigated by the city for conflict-of-interest violations and cleared of any wrongdoing.
On March 27, 2003, Halsted made a presentation to the Chandler City Council in which he stressed the importance of buying Tasers and encouraged officials to act that night. Contacted at his office Friday, Halsted declined to comment.
Former Seattle police Officer Steve Ward, who now works for Taser, was issued stock options on Jan. 1, 2001, almost a year before Taser created its training board. In September 2000, Ward co-authored a report that advocated arming officers with Tasers.
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.
In his deposition, Taser President Tom Smith said he did not believe any of the options granted to police officers represented a conflict.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
September 22, 2005
September 22, 2005
Taser International via PRNewswire
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Sept 22, 2005 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX News Network/ -- TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq: TASR), a market leader in advanced electronic control devices released the following statement relating to the compensation of consultants to the Company including its Master Instructor Training Board:
The company was advised that the Arizona Republic, a Gannet Newspaper, intends to run a negative story regarding the fact that during the period from 2000 through 2003, the Company granted stock options to 11 persons who were not employees or directors of TASER International. The 11 persons included our medical director, a non-employee salesperson, two individuals who provided legal services to the Company, a police officer who designed a holster for the Company's product, and six members of our Master Instructor Training Board. In total, the 11 individuals received stock options on 27,671 shares of TASER International stock. The stock options had a strike price equal to the Company's share price on the date of issue and as such did not have any "in the money value" at the time of grant.
The Master Instructor Training Board was created to oversee and advise the Company in relation to law enforcement training programs and included four active duty police officers, one retired police officer and a representative from the aviation industry.
The participants were chosen as respected experts in police and security training. It should be noted that none of the board members were in a position to approve product purchases AND every one of their agencies had already purchased and deployed TASER devices prior to their joining our advisory training board.
The company addressed the issue of these stock options on CNBC's Kudlow and Cramer and released generic information to the New York Times and other media in the first quarter of 2005. The company did not release individual names at that time out of respect for the privacy of the consultants involved. However, the Arizona Republic was able to gain access to previously private court records and intends to release the information regardless of individuals' privacy rights. Accordingly, TASER International has elected to issue this clarifying information to help ensure a more accurate representation of the facts.
According to an industry survey from advisory consulting experts at BoardSeat.com -- a consulting group in the area of creating and compensating advisory boards, TASER International followed an industry standard that over 70% of start up ventures use to compensate advisors -- stock options. Stock options have been and continue to be important compensation tools for start up ventures that have limited cash resources -- a description that certainly fit TASER International during the time period in question. The following information is from BoardSeat.com:
Regarding the purpose of advisory boards: "An advisory board is a group
of industry executives and professionals that is appointed by a company
for the purpose of offering advice and support on a wide range of issues
that are relevant to the organization."
Regarding Compensation: "Advisors should be paid for their time. The
optimum method of payment in many cases is with stock options or
Regarding Amount of Compensation: "As companies mature and become larger
they tend to pay a smaller percentage of equity to their advisory board
members. Companies that had raised less than $10 million pay their
advisors, on average, 0.043% per annum... Companies that had raised more
than $50 million pay their advisors, on average, 0.013% per annum."
Regarding the compensation of the TASER Training Board, the members received stock options on an aggregate total of 5,500 shares. This equates to an average of options on 917 shares of TASER stock per member of the training board. The fully diluted share count of TASER International at the end of 2002 was over 4.7 million shares. Hence, the average total of 306 shares per year represented 0.0065% of company equity. This is far below the per annum averages reported for similar venture capital backed companies in the boardSeat.com report.
As you can see from above, we strongly believe our Training Board is consistent with industry standards for similar advisory boards created by the majority of surveyed venture backed companies, albeit our compensation was far lower.
Regarding the officer who received stock options in lieu of cash for the purchase of a holster design, an officer in Victoria Canada received options on 775 shares of stock in May, 2001. Because the options were granted at the market price, the options had no value to the officer at the time of grant. He sold his options in 2003.
"I am personally incensed that the Arizona Republic plans to target TASER International with yet another biased report, alleging misconduct where none exists," said Rick Smith, CEO of TASER International. "Advisory boards are a prevalent and valuable resource in the business world, and their compensation predominantly includes stock options as is well documented in the area of startup ventures. The officers on our board were involved in training operations at their respective departments -- not the purchasing departments. They followed all relevant conflict-of-interest regulations at their departments and the grant of stock options did not violate TASER's Code of Ethics nor industry norms. The advisory board was established specifically to provide un-biased industry guidance in developing our training programs. It is an insult to these individuals and the law enforcement sector in general to insinuate these officers sold-out their ethics by helping us to develop better training and better equipment. It is especially insulting when the amounts in question amount to options on average of a few hundred shares of stock per year."
"I look forward with great interest to the Arizona Republic's story on this topic, especially in light of the history of biased and misleading reporting that have become the topic of litigation between TASER International and Gannet," concluded Mr. Smith.
About TASER International, Inc.
TASER International, Inc. provides advanced electronic control devices for use in the law enforcement, military, private security and personal defense markets. TASER devices use proprietary technology to safely incapacitate dangerous, combative or high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves. TASER technology saves lives every day, and the use of TASER devices dramatically reduces injury rates for officers and suspects. For more information on TASER life-saving technology, please call TASER International at (800) 978-2737 or visit our website at www.TASER.com.
Note to Investors
This press release contains forward-looking information within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of the 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and is subject to the safe harbor created by those sections. The forward-looking information is based upon current information and expectations regarding TASER International. These estimates and statements speak only as of the date on which they are made, are not guarantees of future performance, and involve certain risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are difficult to predict. Therefore, actual outcomes and results could materially differ from what is expressed, implied, or forecasted in such forward-looking statements.
TASER International assumes no obligation to update the information contained in this press release. TASER International's future results may be impacted by risks associated with rapid technological change, new product introductions, new technological developments and implementations, execution issues associated with new technology, ramping manufacturing production to meet demand, litigation including lawsuits resulting from alleged product related injuries, media publicity concerning allegations of deaths occurring after use of the TASER device and the negative impact this could have on sales, product quality, implementation of manufacturing automation, potential fluctuations in quarterly operating results, adjustments to these amounts which may be reflected in our 10Q filing, competition, financial and budgetary constraints of prospects and customers, international order delays, dependence upon sole and limited source suppliers, negative reports concerning TASER device uses, governmental inquiries and investigations, medical and safety studies, fluctuations in component pricing, government regulations, variation among law enforcement agencies with their TASER product experience, TASER device tests and reports, dependence upon key employees, and our ability to retain employees. TASER International's future results may also be impacted by other risk factors listed from time to time in its SEC filings, including, but not limited to, the Company's Form 10-QSBs and its Annual Report on Form 10-KSB.
The statements made herein are independent statements of TASER International. The inclusion of any third parties does not represent an endorsement of any TASER International products or services by any such third parties.
Visit the company's web-site at www.TASER.com for facts and video.
SOURCE TASER International, Inc.
Steve Tuttle, Vice President of Communications of TASER International, Inc.,
Media ONLY Hotline, +1-480-444-4000
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Taser saga continues as Chicago teenager suffers near-fatal ventricular fibrillation after being shocked with stun gun
September 4, 2005
Friday, September 02, 2005
September 2, 2005
ALEX BERENSON, New York Times
A shock from a Taser stun gun caused a teenager in Chicago to go into ventricular fibrillation, a usually fatal heart disturbance, according to a letter published yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The letter, written by two doctors at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, appears to be the first medically documented case of ventricular fibrillation caused by a Taser gun. Tasers are pistol-like weapons that fire electrified barbs up to 25 feet, immobilizing people with painful shocks.
Taser International, which makes the guns, has said that Tasers cannot cause fibrillation, a condition in which the heart loses the ability to pump blood. If not immediately reversed, fibrillation causes death within minutes. In the Chicago case, which occurred last February, the teenage crime suspect received immediate medical attention and survived after the police shot him with the Taser.
Dr. Wayne H. Franklin, a pediatric electrophysiologist at Children's Memorial and one of the letter's authors, said the teenager would have died if he had not been received immediate care. An electrocardiogram or heart rhythm test, administered to the teenager, proved that he suffered fibrillation, Dr. Franklin said.
The case illustrates the risks of Tasers as well as the need for police officers to carry automated defibrillators, which put out a large electric shock that restores the heart's rhythm, Dr. Franklin said. Police officers should be aware that Tasers can cause fibrillation, even though the risks may be small, he said.
"I don't know why it happens to one person and why it doesn't happen to another," he said. "Not everyone who gets hit by lightning dies, either."
In response to the letter, Taser forwarded an e-mail message from Dr. Richard M. Luceri, director of the Arrhythmia Center at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in which he said: "The conclusion implied by the authors is purely speculative and not backed by scientific evidence."
About 130 people have died after being shocked by a Taser, including nearly 70 in the last 12 months, according to Amnesty International, which has called for a moratorium on the use of the guns. In most cases, autopsy reports have not found the Taser to be the cause of death.
In 2003 and 2004, use of Tasers spread rapidly among American police departments as officers sought ways to control suspects without fighting with them or using firearms.
But sales of the guns have plunged this year amid safety questions. Tasers cause the muscles to contract uncontrollably. Repeated Taser shocks may cause the blood to become highly acidic and the body to overheat, both potentially fatal conditions, scientists say.
September 2, 2005
By Neil Osterweil, Senior Associate Editor, MedPage Today
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
CHICAGO, Sept. 2-A Chicago teenager's heart went into ventricular fibrillation after the youth was subdued by police with a Taser electric stun gun, reported physicians.
"An adolescent was subdued with a Taser stun gun and subsequently collapsed," wrote Paul J. Kim, M.D., and Wayne H. Franklin, M.D., of Children's Memorial Hospital here in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Paramedics found the adolescent to be in ventricular fibrillation and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation within two minutes after the collapse," the physicians wrote. "After four shocks and the administration of epinephrine, atropine, and lidocaine, a perfusing rhythm was restored. The adolescent made a nearly complete recovery and was discharged from the hospital several days later."
The letter was accompanied by electrocardiogram tracings showing the boy's heart rhythm before and after defibrillation.
Tasers fire wired-barbs delivering an estimated 50,000 volts of pulsed electrical energy to the target.
At a meeting of the Academy of Forensic Sciences in February, electrical engineer James Ruggieri made a presentation in which he said that the electrical output of Taser's M26 model succeeds the fibrillation threshold for half the U.S. population.
In response, Taser International issued a press statement calling the report erroneous, asserting that the Taser's pulsed current is well below the safety guidelines published by the International Electrotechnical Commission.
In April, the human rights group Amnesty International USA reported that Tasers had caused more than 100 deaths in the United States and Canada.
The devices are designed to incapacitate subjects by causing rapid muscle contractions and intense but transient pain.
"TASER strongly supports independent review of its devices," says a statement on the company's web site. "A number of independent reviews have affirmed the life-saving value of TASER as a safer, effective non-lethal use of force."
In their letter to NEJM, Drs. Kim and Franklin suggest that in light of their findings, police who are equipped with stun guns should also be equipped with portable automated external defibrillators.
Primary source: New England Journal of Medicine
NEJM Volume 353:958-959
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Police officers from five states sue Taser International for serious injuries suffered during stun gun training classes
August 25, 2005
While the Canadian Police Research Institute has now stated that Tasers and other “conducted energy devices” are acceptable because the advantages they provide outweigh the risks they pose.
In reaching this conclusion in its report to Canadian police chiefs, the Institute was apparently not overly troubled by the enormous number of deaths that have occurred in cases where a Taser has been used. The specific finding by the Coroner of Cook County, Illinois, that a Taser was, in fact, the cause of death of a man arrested in Chicago also appears to have been ignored in the report as the type of definitive evidence it was seeking to support the claim that the devices can cause death.
This report comes at the same time that police officers in five states have filed lawsuits against Taser International claiming they suffered serious injuries after being shocked with the device during training classes.
One officer, a Missouri police chief, alleges that he suffered heart damage and two strokes after he volunteered to be shocked with a Taser in April 2004, while hooked up to a cardiac monitor that was supposed to show the Taser was safe. The officer also claims he suffered hearing and vision loss as well as neurological damage.
Other injuries claimed by the officers involved include spinal fractures, burns, a dislocated shoulder, and soft-tissue damage. A previous lawsuit file in February 2004 alleged a sheriff's deputy suffered a fractured back in 2002.
The lawsuits challenge Taser International's central marketing claim that its device is safe and charge the manufacturer of misleading its customers concerning the potential risks posed by the stun guns. Taser is also accused of minimizing and misrepresenting the 2002 fractured back case even after its own doctor found a one-second shock from a Taser caused the injury.
The lawsuits also allege Taser International withheld reports of injuries to at least 12 other police officers and that the company has ignored credible research suggesting the device can be extremely dangerous, if not fatal.
As with all previous allegations against it, Taser International has stated that it intends to vigorously defend the claims. The company has denied any of the 144 deaths which have occurred following the use of a Taser was caused by its product.
Clearly, both sides cannot be right in this matter. As we reported on August 7, Taser International has now issued a training bulletin warning that repeated blasts of the Taser can "impair breathing and respiration."
According to a posting on Taser's website, for subjects in a state known as excited delirium, repeated or prolonged stuns with the Taser can contribute to "significant and potentially fatal health risks."
The three-page bulletin appears to counter instructions in a training manual Taser International issued only last year. It also departs from Taser's previous dismissals of safety concerns raised by groups such as Amnesty International, which has documented 129 U.S. and Canadian deaths of people stunned by Tasers.
The Houston Police Department (HPD), Taser's biggest U.S. customer, has formed a review committee of police officials and community leaders, including representatives from the NAACP and League of United Latin American Citizens, to study the use of Tasers in the city of Houston.
The committee started by reviewing the HPD use-of-force policy, training sessions that officers receive, and the first 200 incidents in which Tasers were used in Houston.
Houston will also be involved in a study of Taser use conducted by a national police-research organization according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.
Obviously, a non-lethal weapon becomes a problem when it starts killing people. Many experts and critics of the Taser stun gun believe that time has long since passed.
For example, using a number of sources, The Arizona Republic has now compiled a list of 144 cases in the United States and Canada since 1999 where a death followed the use of a Taser stun gun. http://www.azcentral.com/specials/taser/#
The sources used included autopsy reports, computer searches, police reports, media accounts, and Taser International's own records. To date, the research indicates that medical examiners have cited the Taser to some extent in 18 deaths. In four cases it was a cause of death, in 10 it was a contributing factor, and in four it could not be ruled out as a cause of death.
This, however, seems to be just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to Taser International's mounting problems with respect to its approximately 100,000 stun guns now being used by some 7,000 U.S. law-enforcement agencies.
Despite the company's spirited defense of its product, Taser International's stock has continued to fall from $33.45 in December 2004 to $9.72 on July 30, a decline of over 70%.
From the very beginning, many experts questioned the safety of the 50,000 volt “non-lethal” weapon. A lack of adequate testing and independent medical evidence supporting the company's bold marketing claims have been cited by such diverse critics as Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a consulting electrical engineer as reasons for removing the stun guns from the market until more extensive testing is done especially with respect to how the device affects pregnant women, people on drugs, or those with heart conditions.
Even the International Association of Chiefs of Police have suggested that further testing is needed. The organization advocates using the device only to subdue violent suspects; not to use it on handcuffed persons unless they are “overly assaultive;” to use it the least number of times; and to seek medical attention for anyone who has been shocked.
In addition, all types of Taser-related lawsuits abound. Personal injury and death claims have been commenced in a number of states. In March of this year, Mesa, Arizona, settled a claim by a 43-year-old man who fell out of a tree after being shocked twice with a Taser by a city police officer. The City paid $2.2 million to the man who became a quadriplegic and another $200,000 to the hospital where he was treated.
A class-action lawsuit was commenced only last week in U.S. District Court in Chicago by the city of Dolton, Illinois, on behalf of police departments across the country for being misled about the safety of the Taser and for leaving the police with weapons that are too dangerous to use on the street.
The law firm representing the city of Dolton claims to have already been retained by other police departments in four states. Paul Geller, an attorney from that firm, states that the law suit would be dropped if Taser would agree to take back the stun guns.
The potential for huge personal injury and death claims have left many municipalities rethinking their purchase of Tasers. Some police forces like those in Birmingham and Lucas County ( Ohio) have either stopped issuing the weapons or have pulled them of the street altogether. Other cities like Chicago have backed off making additional purchases.
The mayor of Birmingham ordered police to stop using Tasers after the death of an inmate who had been shocked with a Taser several hours before he died.
The mayor of Dolton, which suspended their use, calls his city's purchase of Tasers “a mistake” because “they need far more testing.” He went on to say that losing the money his city paid for the Tasers was far less than the financial risk posed by even one wrongful-death lawsuit.
On January 6, 2005 Taser officials disclosed that federal authorities had launched an inquiry into claims made by the company with respect to its safety studies. The Securities and Exchange Commission was also probing an end-of-year sale which appeared to inflate sales in order to meet annual projections.
In May, The Arizona Republic also reported that “Taser International was deeply involved in a Department of Defense study that company officials touted to police departments and investors as ‘independent' proof of the stun gun's safety...This information is surfacing at a time when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Arizona attorney general are pursuing inquiries into safety claims that the Scottsdale firm has made.”
On July 17, the Associated Press reported a Texas man died after being shocked between three and six times with a Taser by an off-duty police officer who was acting as a security guard. The man's wife said she was suing Taser International because her husband “didn't deserve the death penalty.” It appears the men had done little more than trespass on private property and confront the officer who had chased him.
The report went on to state: “In the past nine months, at least six people in Texas – including three in Fort Worth – have died after authorities shocked them with a Taser gun.”
On July 27, a prisoner being held in a Queens, New York, police station died after being shocked with a Taser.
Finally, on July 30, several news sources reported that (for the first time) the Cook County ( Chicago, Illinois) Medical Examiner had ruled the February 10 death of an agitated 54-year-old man was caused by being shocked excessively with a Taser.
The finding indicated that the 57-second shock was sufficient, in and of itself, to have killed the man. Why such a long shock (ten times the usual amount) was administered has not been explained.
Although the Chicago police force will continue to use the Tasers they already have, an order for additional units was suspended.
Taser has vigorously defended its stun guns in every situation where it has been linked to an injury or death. The company continues to maintain that Tasers are non-lethal and that all of the reports regarding deaths and injuries associated with the device are baseless and can be explained away on the basis of other causes.
A recent training bulletin issued by Taser, however, advised police that “repeated, prolonged, and/or continuous exposures to the Taser may cause strong muscle contractions that may impair breathing and respiration, particularly when the probes are placed across the chest or diaphragm.”
Given all of this information, it is difficult to image how the Canadian Police Research Institute reached its conclusion that the benefits of the Taser and similar devices outweigh the risks they pose to anyone who is shocked with any of them. It now appears that the courts will be the forum in which the final verdict on the Taser will be rendered.
Monday, August 22, 2005
August 22, 2005
One of the authors of this review was Sgt. Darren Laur, a former Taser Shareholder
Saturday, August 20, 2005
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 20, 2005 12:00 AM
Police officers in five states filed lawsuits against Scottsdale-based Taser International over the past two weeks claiming they were seriously injured after being shocked with the electronic stun gun during training classes.
Among them is a Missouri police chief who says he suffered heart damage and two strokes when he volunteered to be shocked while hooked up to a cardiac monitor as a way to demonstrate the safety of the Taser to his officers.
Four of the suits were filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on behalf of officers in Florida, Kansas, New Mexico and Ohio who claim they suffered "severe and permanent" injuries, including multiple spinal fractures, burns, a shoulder dislocation and soft-tissue injuries. advertisement
In St. Louis on Thursday, Hallsville Police Chief Pete Herring filed a lawsuit claiming "painful, permanent and progressive" hearing and vision loss and neurological damage in addition to the strokes and cardiac damage.
Chief agreed to do it
Herring's lawyer, Spencer Eisenmenger, said Friday that the chief agreed to be the first officer shocked during an April 2004 training class for the department's newly purchased Tasers.
"Chief Herring was attached to an EKG when he was shocked with a Taser . . . He agreed as chief of police to be the first person shocked," Eisenmenger said. "(Hallsville) has no Taser program right now."
The suits challenge Taser's principal safety claim and accuse the company of misleading law enforcement about the extent of potential injuries. They also accuse company officials of concealing reports of injuries to at least a dozen other law enforcement officers.
Taser has marketed the weapons to 7,000 law enforcement agencies. Company officials have not only encouraged police officers to experience Taser shocks, they have used those shocks to promote the gun's safety, claiming that 100,000 officers have been shocked without a single serious injury.
Taser Vice President Steve Tuttle said in a statement Friday that the company would fight all of the lawsuits.
"We are aware of the filings in Arizona and intend to aggressively fight any such claims," he said.
"We have not been served papers regarding the Missouri filing but will aggressively defend this matter."
In an Aug. 3 memo to law enforcement officials, Taser Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith acknowledged that, "we've had a small number of volunteers experience injuries similar to athletic exertion." But he said realistic training carries a risk of injury and suggested that the company should not be held liable for those injuries.
"Imagine if the shoe manufacturer Nike was sued every time an athlete sprained an ankle," Smith wrote.
Phoenix lawyer John Dillingham, who represents the police officers in Florida, Kansas, New Mexico and Ohio, said Smith's comparison is ridiculous.
Not the same as Nike
"This is not the same as wearing a Nike tennis shoe and spraining an ankle. It's more like breaking an ankle every time you tie the laces on a Nike shoe," he said.
"Every time an officer takes a hit from Taser, they are at risk."
In their lawsuits, the four officers allege they were injured in training classes between August 2003 and October 2004. They say that Taser instructors did not reveal any medical information suggesting that the guns could cause injuries and they claim the company has ignored important research suggesting the guns could be extremely dangerous, if not fatal.
The 104-page complaints filed Aug. 5 each allege that Taser was aware of injuries to other officers but did nothing to warn police departments, "knowing full well that such a reported serious injury would have devastating ramifications on its safety claims and, most importantly, its most-effective sales tool, the law enforcement training program."
Specifically, the lawsuits point to the injury of former Maricopa County sheriff's Deputy Samuel Powers, who filed the first product liability suit against Taser in February 2004 and claims that his back was fractured when he was shocked during a training exercise two years earlier.
Misreporting the facts?
Although Taser officials were notified of Powers' fractured back, four of the lawsuits accuse the company of continually misreporting the injury to shareholders and the public as a minor shoulder injury, even after a doctor hired by Taser concluded in September that a one-second Taser jolt was responsible for Powers fractured back.
Dillingham said that if Taser had taken steps to warn officers in September of the possibility of injury, other officers might have avoided being injured.
He pointed to Belle Glade (Fla.) police Officer John Gerdon, who claims in his lawsuit that he suffered spinal fractures and burns when he was shocked during a training class in October.
He said in his suit that Taser instructors and training materials all told him the stun gun had not and could not cause an injury.
In the Missouri suit, Police Chief Herring said he was given the same assurances before he demonstrated the device.
Eisenmenger said the chief, who is 6-foot-10 and weighs 300 pounds, insisted that he be hooked up to a machine that measures cardiac functions to show other officers that the stun gun was safe.
"He was assured by the defendant in this case that no harm could come of it," he said.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
August 14, 2005
Antigone Barton, Palm Beach Post
Gordon Randall Jones
In July 2002, an Orange County deputy shocked Gordon Randall Jones with a Taser 14 times in four minutes on the day the 37-year-old Orlando man died. Jones had taken cocaine that day and was acting strangely when deputies came to remove him from a hotel where he was a paid guest. But Jones had not been violent and was not being arrested for a crime when the Taser darts hit him in the back, crumbling him to the floor.
A lobby surveillance tape shows Jones lying, sometimes still, sometimes writhing, while a circle of deputies stands near him, some with arms folded, waiting for him to follow orders to put his hands behind his back.
Eventually, deputies discussed another plan to gain control over Jones, who had bloody drool frothing from his mouth. By then, observers in the lobby had begged deputies to stop shocking him. One woman had fled from the smell of burning flesh.
According to depositions, deputies didn't tell paramedics about the repeated Taser shocks as they loaded Jones facedown into an ambulance.
He died on the way to a hospital.
The Orange County deputy chief medical examiner found Jones suffocated, with Taser shocks and cocaine intoxication contributing.
The Taser shocks, Dr. William Anderson said, interfered with the muscles Jones needed to breathe, making him already short of breath when he was eventually handcuffed lying on his chest.
As a result, Anderson said, Jones' blood was starved of oxygen.
Orange County officials hired Pennsylvania-based pathologist Cyril Wecht to take another look. Wecht found Jones' death resulted primarily from cocaine intoxication, with being restrained facedown reduced to a contributing cause. The multiple Taser shocks did not contribute to his death, Wecht said.
"Which doesn't make sense, when you think about it," Anderson said. If being placed in a position that makes breathing difficult contributed to Jones' death, he said, the Taser shocks that interrupted his breathing would have contributed as well.
Taser later hired Wecht as a paid consultant to "independently review" deaths following the weapon's use, according to a letter the company sent to medical examiners.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
August 10, 2005
JONATHAN WOODWARD, Globe & Mail
VANCOUVER -- More than a year after a man died after being shocked with a Taser-brand stun gun by Vancouver police, his family is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to force a coroner's inquest into his death.
Patti Gillman said she wants to see for herself reports describing why her brother Robert Bagnell died, and she wants the police to finish their investigation.
"We want closure," she said. "We want to be able to see what happened the night my brother died. That's been really hard on us.
"The legal costs are rising with all of the delays that have occurred in the last several months. I don't know how much longer we can afford to wait without any results."
Mr. Bagnell died on June 23, 2004, high on cocaine and barricaded in a bathroom on the fifth floor of a Granville Street hotel.
While trying to remove him, two officers shocked the struggling 54-year-old twice with the 50,000-volt device. His heart stopped.
At the time, the man's family was told he died of a cocaine overdose. A month later, police told them of the stun gun's use, and seven weeks after the death, police said the situation was "urgent" because there was a fire in the building.
In the petition, Ms. Gillman's lawyer, Cameron Ward, claims that the Coroners Service has neglected or refused to schedule an inquest.
Chief Coroner Terry Smith said a coroner's inquest is mandatory when there is a death in police custody, but it can't begin during an investigation that could lead to criminal charges.
"If these things are being concurrently evaluated, it makes obvious good sense to hold the criminal stuff first so as not to taint it by holding an inquest prematurely."
On Aug. 5, 2004, the police complaint commissioner ordered an investigation by the Victoria police department into stun gun use and into the death.
They released recommendations on stun gun use on June 14, but the investigation into Mr. Bagnell's death has been extended three times from its original Feb. 5 deadline. It's now set to finish Sept. 15.
On top of that, the Crown has requested more information from the police departments to assess whether any police officers should be criminally charged.
That investigation has no time limit.
"If that was all completed, we'd move right now," Mr. Smith said.
"[Mr. Bagnell's family's] efforts would be better focused on letting these processes finish rather than filing petitions in court. I don't think it's particularly productive."
Coroner's inquests are fact-finding hearings that neither assign blame nor lay criminal charges, but rather determine the circumstances of a death.
Mr. Ward said it's time for a coroner's inquest.
He said he wants to look at documents related to Mr. Bagnell's death to investigate the family's questions.
"We've got to look at the results of the autopsy and consult experts . . . to try and determine what it all means," he said. "The family has been completely in the dark for the last 14 months."
In North America, 147 people have died since 1999 after being struck with a stun gun.
"We need a moratorium on taser use until we can figure out what is killing these people," Ms. Gillman said. "I feel for those families as well if they're going through anything we've gone through over the past year. I hope they have some idea of what they're in for."
Thursday, August 04, 2005
August 4, 2005
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
St. Petersburg Times
The stun gun maker says subjects in a state of excited delirium are at risk, and law enforcement officials say they are training users to recognize symptoms.
TAMPA - Taser International, maker of the controversial stun guns used by thousands of law enforcement agencies from Tampa Bay to London, has issued a training bulletin that warns repeated blasts of the Taser can "impair breathing and respiration."
For subjects in a state known as excited delirium, repeated or prolonged stuns with the Taser can contribute to "significant and potentially fatal health risks," according to a recent posting on Taser International's Web site.
The three-page bulletin, which comes as the Tarpon Springs and St. Petersburg police departments prepare to outfit officers with stun guns, appears to counter instructions in a training manual issued last year by Taser International last year.
It also departs from the manufacturer's previous dismissals of safety concerns raised by groups such as Amnesty International, which has documented 129 U.S. and Canadian deaths of people stunned by Tasers.
Most deaths were later attributed to drugs, pre-existing heart problems and excited delirium, a psychotic and typically drug-induced state in which the heart is susceptible to cardiac arrest.
But last month, a medical examiner in Chicago became the first in the United States to attribute a criminal suspect's death to a Taser. The suspect had methamphetamine in his system when the officer stunned him, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Taser vice president of communications Steve Tuttle wrote in an e-mail this week that the company is simply reminding officers to use "only the necessary amount of force" when stunning suspects.
St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon is aware of the bulletin, but it won't affect his recent decision to let officers carry Tasers, said agency spokesman Bill Proffitt. "People in this excited delirium state are already at death's doorstep, and we already have to restrain them to get them medical care," Proffitt said. "The training that we provide officers will include the ability to recognize symptoms, and it will go over the limitations on use of the weapon and the necessary medical procedures."
Pinellas sheriff's spokesman Mac McMullen said agency leaders attended a seminar in April in which excited delirium and the use of Tasers were discussed. Since then, deputies have been advised during roll call about the symptoms, he said.
The department's policy, like those of other large agencies in Tampa Bay, does not address the issue of multiple, prolonged firings.
But it advises deputies to consider other options besides Tasers for subjects who are very young or very old. Pinellas deputies are not to use Tasers on pregnant women.
"At this point it doesn't appear the bulletin will impact our policy," McMullen said.
Tampa police Cpl. Tommy Downes, a longtime sniper team member, said any use of force - hand-to-hand, Tasers or pepper spray - is more of a health risk for subjects high on drugs or in some other psychotic state.
"Their pain receptors aren't working, they're overheated, they're super strong," Downes said. "Yet if you have someone who's tearing up a place or attacking people and exhibiting all the hallmarks of excited delirium, you have to do something."
The Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough Sheriff's Office are working to craft new Taser use policies that mirror each other. Neither policy currently addresses multiple firings, but they prohibit "indiscriminate or punitive" Taser use.
Hillsborough deputies are trained to use the Taser "until the person quits resisting arrest," Sheriff David Gee said.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
July 31, 2005
Lateef Mungin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Multiple shocks with a Taser could impair breathing and even lead to death, the stun gun's manufacturer says in a new warning to law enforcement agencies. The three-page bulletin, posted on the Taser International Inc. Web site and e-mailed to the company's 19,500 certified trainers, contradicts past statements the company has made to the public and law enforcement, as well as its own training manual, last issued in November 2004.
In fact, the 239-page training manual issued by the Arizona-based company contained its own contradictions, both urging officers to use multiple shocks to subdue unruly suspects and warning against it.
"This is a much stronger emphasis than they had before," Duluth police Maj. Don Woodruff, a certified Taser instructor, said of the new bulletin. "In the past they just told us that if you have a guy who is not compliant, just stun him again. There wasn't that much talk about the health effects."
The company's warning stops short of linking the Taser to the more than 100 people who have died since 2001 after being shocked. Multiple shocks were administered in many of these deaths, including those of two men in Gwinnett County, each of whom died after being shocked at least three times with a Taser.
The Taser, marketed as a nonlethal weapon, is used by about 7,000 domestic law enforcement agencies, including 217 in Georgia, according to Taser International.
The company's president and founder, Tom Smith, said the warning, posted on the Web site June 28, was nothing new. He described it as updating statements the company had made in its training manuals.
"We are just being more specific than we were before," Smith said.
The 2004 Taser training manual did warn police against multiple blasts of the Taser â€” once, on page 158. But that warning is contradicted at least three times in the same manual, including on page 157, where Taser users are instructed to use multiple shocks on subjects.
"The students should anticipate using additional cycles to subdue suspects," it reads. "[The first] cycle changes the behavior, and the subsequent cycles allow for apprehension in most cases."
The training manual also stated that multiple blasts of the Taser occurred in 32 percent of the incidents police had reported to Taser International.
The new bulletin, beyond warning officers three times that repeated Taser shocks can impair breathing and lead to death, also describes specific injuries that could result from multiple or prolonged use of the 50,000-volt stun gun.
It said multiple shocks could also cause strong muscle contractions that could cause injuries to "tissues, organs, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, joints and stress/compression fractures to bones." It also contained various other recommended safety measures, such as not aiming the weapon at a suspect's eyes.
The company has been buffeted by more than 20 lawsuits, including some filed by police officers who say they were hurt while training with Tasers. Taser sales and the company's stock have declined steadily as the death toll, now at 103 according to Amnesty International, has risen.
A major part of Taser's defense for years has been that a medical examiner has never named the weapon as a cause of death. That changed last week when a Chicago coroner named the Taser as the primary cause of a jailed prisoner's death.
In the Chicago case, police Tasered a suspect two times and one of the blasts was prolonged â€” 57 seconds. The company counsels against both multiple and prolonged shocks in the new bulletin.
The new warning will undoubtedly prompt some police agencies to question the safety of Tasers, said Illinois attorney Paul Geller, who recently filed a class action against the company alleging Taser overstated the guns' safety.
"It seems that Taser is finally attempting to change its position on the safety of the weapons," said Geller, who represents the Dolton, Ill., Police Department. "But they should have made these statements earlier. We still have a situation where police departments were misled to believe that this weapon is safe when it is not."
Taser International has staunchly defended its weapons, stating that the guns have been used safely by law enforcement officers in the field more than 45,000 times since 1999.
Overall, they have been used safely more than 100,000 times, including demonstration firings, the company said.
The company's medical research finds that the weapons "generally" do not cause death, according to the new warning. But the document advises police to seek to control an unruly suspect immediately after the first blast rather than using the weapon again.
Some police departments are heeding the new warning.
"When our next class begins, our training will be modified," said Gwinnett police spokesman Darren Moloney, who said the department would make an effort to minimize multiple shocks.
"One of the changes in policy is that when an officer is deploying the Taser, and there are other officers present to assist, the subject will be restrained and handcuffed during the Tasing process."
No quick reaction
At least one metro Atlanta police department said it was not aware of the warning.
"We are unfamiliar with this warning and will have to research it," said Henry County police Lt. Jason Bolton.
Several other agencies, including the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department, either declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries. The Gwinnett Sheriff's Department changed its Taser policy after the latest death of a suspect subdued at the county jail â€” its second such case.
The new policy forbids Gwinnett deputies from placing the stun gun directly on the body of a handcuffed inmate and shocking him if there are enough deputies to restrain the prisoner.
The Georgia State Patrol is aware of the new warning bulletin and may change its Taser policy, said Gordy Wright, a spokesman for the agency, which has 200 Tasers.
"But it is really not an issue with us," Wright said. "Most of the time in our cases, the subject is compliant right after the first Tasing."
Police should avoid multiple blasts of the Taser "to minimize the potential for overexertion of the subject," according to the new warning. In addition, extended Taser shocks can harm people who are suffering from "excited delirium," the bulletin states.
"Excited delirium is a potentially fatal condition caused by a complex set of physiological conditions," according to the warning. "These subjects are at significant and potentially fatal health risks from further prolonged exertion and/or impaired breathing."
Excited delirium was named as the cause of death in 18 Taser-related cases, according to Amnesty International. Sometimes seen in drug abusers, those experiencing excited delirium often display erratic behavior and almost superhuman strength, medical experts say.
Less force better
Smith, the Taser president, said he did not think the new training bulletin called into question past medical examiners' rulings in which a Taser was ruled out as a contributing factor in a death.
"We were just basically trying to remind police to use the minimal amount of applications needed to control the situation," Smith said.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
July 30, 2005
Robert Anglen, The Arizona Republic
Taser shocks ruled cause of death
Company disputes first such finding
A Chicago medical examiner has ruled that shocks from a Taser were responsible for the death of a man in February, marking the first time that the electronic stun gun has been named as the primary cause of death.
This is the latest challenge to Scottsdale-based Taser International's claim that its stun guns have never caused a death or serious injury and comes a week after an Illinois police department filed a class-action lawsuit claiming Taser misled law enforcement agencies about the safety of its weapon.
The death is the 18th case in which a coroner has cited Taser as a factor in someone's death and the fourth case where Taser has been named as a cause of death. But in all of those, Taser was secondary to other factors such as drugs, heart conditions or mental illness.
An autopsy report from the Cook County's Medical Examiner's Office attributed the death of Ronald Hasse, 54, to electrocution from two Taser jolts delivered by a Chicago police officer. The autopsy said methamphetamines contributed to Hasse's death.
Taser strongly criticized the Medical Examiner's Office in a statement Friday and said it will challenge the autopsy.
"We believe that the scientific and medical community will publicly challenge this conclusion based upon the lack of credible evidence," Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle wrote in an e-mail on Friday. "Taser International will seek a judicial review of the report and the basis for which those statements were made."
This is not the first time Taser has challenged a medical examiner. For years, Taser officials publicly said the stun gun was never cited in an autopsy report. But an Arizona Republic investigation last year revealed that Tasers have been cited repeatedly by medical examiners in death cases and that Taser did not start collecting autopsy reports until last April.
Taser officials later maintained that the medical examiners in those cases were wrong and did not have the credentials or expertise necessary to examine deaths involving stun guns. They now maintain that Tasers have never been cited by a medical examiner as "the sole cause of death."
The Republic has identified 140 cases of death in the United States and Canada following a police Taser shock since 1999. Of those, coroners said, Taser was a cause of death in four cases and a contributing factor in 10 cases. In four other cases, medical examiners said Taser could not be ruled out as a cause of death.
In his e-mail on Friday, Tuttle said Hasse's death should likely have been blamed on the methamphetamines.
"We sincerely hope that a groundless opinion will not overshadow the medical and scientific community's conclusions as to the lethal levels of methamphetamine use," he said in the statement. "Overlooking this as a primary cause of death contradicts the very nature and purpose of these known lethal values."
Cook County Deputy Medical Examiner Scott Denton said that drugs alone would not have caused Hasse's death. A five-second shock followed by a 57-second shock pushed Hasse "over the edge," Denton told the Chicago Sun-Times.
"That's extraordinary," Denton said. "He became unresponsive and died after this."
Hasse, a former securities trader who was supposed to go on trial in June in the burial of a body on an Indiana farm, confronted officers in a Chicago high-rise.
Police said they used the Taser on Hasse when he tried to kick and bite officers during a struggle. He also threatened to infect paramedics with HIV.
After Hasse's death, Chicago police halted plans for a Taser expansion. Denton told the Sun-Times that police should stop using Tasers on people who are acting psychotic or appear to be under the influence of drugs.
Denton, who grew up in Scottsdale, did not return The Republic's calls for an interview on Friday. According to a Web site for the Illinois Coroners and Medical Examiners Association, Denton has worked at the Office of the Medical Examiner of Cook County for nine years. He is also an assistant professor in the pathology department at Rush University Medical Center. He got his medical degree from the University of Arizona.
Denton told the Sun-Times that he reviewed thousands of pages of information provided by Taser. But he said his conclusion was also based on the findings of James Ruggieri, an electrical engineer who in February made a presentation to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in which he said Taser shocks could cause cardiac arrest.
Ruggieri, who is a forensic engineer and has consulted with police departments and the military on electrical accidents, said shocks from Taser could cause delayed ventricular fibrillation, the irregular heartbeat characteristic of a heart attack. He also said that multiple shocks from a Taser could cause someone to stop breathing and go into cardiac arrest. He said that many deaths involving Tasers have likely been wrongly dismissed as simple heart attacks or drug overdoses.
Taser has challenged Ruggieri's credentials and said its own medical and electrical experts dispute his findings. Taser maintains that its guns have undergone dozens of tests through universities and the Department of Defense, which support its claim of safety.
Tuttle said Friday that Denton should not have relied on "an unsubstantiated theoretical position of electrical safety as presented by James Ruggieri."
Ruggieri said that he doesn't know Denton. He said the doctor contacted him once in February to get a copy of his academy presentation. But Ruggieri said Friday that he is not surprised by the medical examiner's conclusion.
"It was only a matter of time," he said. "All of the impartial people - doctors, scientists, pathologists - took heed of this. They now have had facts to look at when presented with death cases involving Taser."
Taser, in a June 28 training bulletin, advised police that "repeated, prolonged and/or continuous exposures to the Taser may cause strong muscle contractions that may impair breathing and respiration, particularly when the probes are placed across the chest or diaphragm."
In training classes and instruction manuals, Taser has previously told police to use repeated shocks to control a suspect.
The stun guns have been sold to more than 7,000 law enforcement agencies in the country and are credited with reducing injuries and deaths to suspects and officers and lowering the number of police shootings. But several law enforcement agencies, including the department in Birmingham, Ala., and the Lucas County (Ohio) Sheriff's Office, have pulled the guns from the street.
Last week, Dolton, Ill., filed a class-action lawsuit against Taser, becoming the first police department to take legal action over what it described as Taser's exaggerated claims of safety. The city said it paid $8,572 for stun guns that are too dangerous to use on the street.
Taser stock, which soared last year, dropped by a third this year after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Arizona Attorney General's Office announced separate inquiries into the company's claims of safety.
The price of Taser stock was down about 26 cents on Friday, to $9.72 per share.