You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Taser's Effects Fueling Concern

May 30, 2005
Antigone Barton, Palm Beach Post

A deputy fired his Taser stun gun twice at the woman he was chasing — the second shot dropping her to the ground — before she announced that she was pregnant. "This was not apparent," the deputy wrote in his report, "but due to her statement I did not apply another Taser (shock)."

The report was one of more than 1,000 reviewed by The Palm Beach Post that show how Tasers have been used in the three years since departments in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast added them to their arsenals.

While a growing number of human rights watchers and scientists have voiced concerns about effects on pregnant women, children, elderly people and people with heart, neurological and psychiatric disorders, the review showed that police from Boca Raton to Fort Pierce have fired the weapons at:

• Six people 65 or older, including an 86-year-old man; and at least 35 people 16 and younger, including a 100-pound, 14-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl;

• 87 women of childbearing age, including at least three women who, after being shocked, said they were pregnant;

• At least 57 people who were high on drugs;

• At least 272 people who were shocked multiple times, including 67 shocked three times, 31 shocked four or more times and one man shocked nine times.

Some of these Taser firings ended violent confrontations in which immediate harm was possible, including encounters with armed and physically threatening suspects.

But in at least 237 incidents, the dart-firing stun gun was used only to get compliance from passively resisting or fleeing suspects.

Officers in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast fired Tasers at more than 1,000 people before Timothy Bolander died in December after being shocked four times by Delray Beach police. An autopsy found he had ingested a lethal level of drugs.

"Most of the people shot with Tasers live," said Ed Jackson, a spokesman for Amnesty International, which has called for a moratorium on the weapon's use. "It doesn't mean they are living without consequences."

He attributes Taser-use frequency to a belief that the weapon does no lasting harm.

"The idea that Tasers are generally safe is completely fictional," he said.

Taser International repeatedly has countered Amnesty International's criticisms by saying that the weapon has not been ruled the cause of any of the 103 deaths following shocks tracked by Amnesty.

"That's fine," Jackson says. "Where are the studies that show it's never been a contributing factor? Because that's the question we're asking."

Tasers have been cited in autopsies of at least two people who have died following shocks in Florida, which leads the nation in Taser-involved deaths with 24 since 1999. After a man shocked with a Taser in Escambia County died in January, a medical examiner declined to cite either a cause or manner of death, saying that not enough is known about the weapon's effects.

In November, excerpts of an Air Force study were released saying that Taser shocks can change blood chemistry, potentially leading to heart damage. The study recommended medical monitoring of those shocked with Tasers.

Study 'strongly recommends' more research

In March, a study by the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies said that Tasers can't be ruled out as a contributing cause of deaths that follow shocks.

"We strongly recommend that additional research be conducted at the organism, organ, tissue and cell levels," the report concluded. "The community needs to understand the specific effects of varying electrical wave forms... to include possible psychiatric and other nonlethal effects."

In the same month, forensic engineer James Ruggieri warned police departments that Taser shocks could damage the heart and cause delayed cardiac arrest. He advised that officers not be submitted to shocks during training.

Even the company that makes the stun gun, Taser International, urges caution about use of the weapon in the "drive-stun" mode and with repeated shocks — uses that The Post survey found have been frequent on the streets of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

When the two barbed prongs that Tasers shoot are ensnared in skin or clothing, they transmit 50,000 volts of current that override the nervous system and temporarily paralyze muscles. The greater the distance between the prongs, the more incapacitating the effect. Another five-second jolt can be administered by pulling the trigger again as long as the suspect hasn't ripped out one of the prongs.

Officers also can remove the prong cartridge and discharge the weapon directly against a person's body in the "drive-stun" mode to subdue combative arrestees with a searing jolt of pain.

The Taser training manual advises that because it is not incapacitating, this mode can lead to "prolonged struggles" and that "it is in these types of scenarios that officers are often facing accusations of excessive force."

The technique also requires some care, according to Taser International, but the company's guidelines contain conflicting recommendations. The manual points out that the neck and groin "have proven highly sensitive to injury, such as crushing to the trachea or testicles if applied forcefully." The manual continues, "However, these areas have proven highly effective targets."

A recent amendment to the DeLand Police Department's Taser policy is clearer, saying that the "drive-stun" mode can be used only under exceptional circumstances. Local policies don't address the use of the "drive-stun" mode in writing, although narratives in some of the reports examined by The Post acknowledge that this use is discouraged.

Still, the weapon was used in the drive-stun mode in encounters described in at least 209 of the 1,017 reports.

George Kirkham, a former police officer, Florida State University criminology professor and expert witness in cases involving in-custody deaths, says in many situations, officers can use their hands for "pressure pain tactics" with less risk of harm. He also says Taser has given insufficient guidance on how many times a person should be shocked in either mode.

"We have seen police officers firing it 20 times," he said, "with no idea that they could be doing harm."

One shock may not be sufficient to subdue

Even in its paralyzing mode, one shock may not be enough to subdue a violent suspect, according to the Taser training manual, which advises that officers "should anticipate a second or third application."

But the same manual also warns that prolonged, repeated Taser shocks "may impede breathing" and urges that officers "minimize the overall Taser exposure."

In Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, 273 reports document confrontations in which people were shocked multiple times — at least 31 people were shocked four or more times, including one man shocked at least nine times. In some reports, officers and deputies simply reported firing "until compliance was gained."

Shortly after Boca Raton police became the first department to use Tasers in 2001, they arrested a man who had been running naked in the streets. After he was handcuffed, he began to struggle violently, breaking a Plexiglas divider in the police car with his head and kicking officers.

Officers shocked him repeatedly with their new Tasers, subduing him briefly each time, but failing to stop him for long. After he had been shocked at least nine times, he went into convulsions and was taken to the hospital where he was found to have cocaine in his system.

"The question is whether Tasers are unsafe under those circumstances," said Dr. Jared Strote, a Washington state emergency room physician, who with a Harvard professor is conducting a study of Taser-involved deaths. People who are "deliriously high" experience blood chemistry changes that, combined with restraints and heart ailments, can be fatal even without a Taser shock, he says.

"My guess is that these people with their underlying conditions — both acute and chronic — don't have the reserve to tolerate the Taser, and it makes them more likely to go into a fatal heart rhythm after the shock."

Taser International anticipates more deaths

The man survived, but the report of his violent, erratic and apparently drug-induced behavior, as well as struggles with officers and repeated shocks, parallels the stories of almost all of those who have died following Taser shocks in Florida.

Taser International urges departments to be prepared for those stories. The company points out in its training materials that the weapon often is used when other means of control have failed with people using hard drugs and showing signs of a condition that medical examiners call "excited delirium," which can be fatal even without a Taser shock.

The firm includes an "In Custody Death Checklist" with its training materials.

In it, the company notes that it "anticipates more in-custody deaths given the significantly large deployments of Taser conducted energy weapons."

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Are officers too quick to fire tasers?

May 29, 2005
Antigone Barton, Palm Beach Post

Until November, Taser International's Web site stated that the weapon is "solely designed to stop the most hardened of targets: extremely violent, aggressive, goal-oriented and drug induced suspects."

Taser's Tuttle said that refers to "the 1-percenters with superhuman strength and mind-body disconnect." But he adds, the weapon can be used on suspects "up to" that level of resistance as well.

The wording no longer appears on Taser's Web site, but the company's manual used to train Taser instructors, says: "The Taser is best utilized in situations where a hostile or potentially hostile individual is threatening himself or another person." On its Web site, the company typically refers to the target of a Taser as "the attacker."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Third So-Called "Independent" TASER Study Linked to Manufacturer

May 23, 2005
Amnesty International

(Washington, DC)—Today Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), released the following statement regarding documents listing Taser International executives, consultants and businesses partners as panelists in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) TASER study. This discovery reported over the weekend by the Arizona Republic marks the third time in five months that the manufacturer has been linked to "independent" studies:

"Police departments around the world are purchasing TASERs based, in part, on constant reassurances from the manufacturer that numerous 'independent' studies have proven the electro-shock weapons to be safe and effective. But new revelations reported by the Arizona Republic over the weekend have made it abundantly clear that the company did not voluntarily reveal its connections to this study and the individuals who actually made the claim that TASERs are safe. In October 2004, a Taser International executive called the DoD report the 'granddaddy' of all independent studies. However, even as he made that claim, the company knew that their employees, business partners, and a long list of Taser's clients and supporters had participated in virtually every aspect of producing this report.

For example, the report states that the final version is a product that was reviewed by the 'Independent External Review Workshop.' But, Taser International has consistently failed to voluntarily reveal the fact that nearly half of the members of that panel were either employees of or had some other type of relationship with the company."

(End of Statement)

The Arizona Republic story marks the third time in five months that it has been revealed that Taser International has tried to hide its involvement in so-called independent studies. In January, media reports exposed information that three of the four researchers on an allegedly independent study were employees of Taser International and one was a paid consultant for the company. Two weeks ago, the public learned that the recipient of a $500,000 federal research grant tried to hide the fact that he would be paying Taser International's medical director $18,000 to consult on his supposedly independent study.

Amnesty International continues to call for comprehensive, independent medical studies to determine the risks TASER shocks pose to the general public. Everyday that TASER supporters refuse to engage in an honest debate and stonewall attempts to find answers to these questions is another day that the real, lifesaving potential of this new technology will go unrecognized.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Taser tied to 'independent' study that backs stun gun

May 21, 2005
Robert Anglen, The Arizona Republic

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, according to government documents and e-mails obtained by The Arizona Republic and interviews with military officials.

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.

The stun guns are being used by more than 7,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, but a series of deaths and injuries associated with the devices have raised safety concerns.

E-mails that military officials exchanged also reveal for the first time that they asked Taser to tone down public statements about the study. In addition, they urged the company to commission an independent study rather than rely on the Defense study.

The Air Force conducted the study for the Defense Department to assess the risks and effectiveness of Tasers so the military could decide whether to buy them.

Since October, Taser officials have contended that the company had no involvement in the Defense study, which helped fuel a sharp rise in the company's stock price last year.

Bulk of research

But information obtained by The Republic shows that Taser officials not only participated in three panels to determine the scope of the study, analyze data and review findings, it also provided the bulk of research material used in the study.

"Were they (Taser) totally disconnected (from the study)? The answer is no. They were not disconnected," said Larry Farlow, a spokesman for the Air Force Research Laboratory in Texas that oversaw the study.

Taser critics - civil rights lawyers, human rights activists and government officials - contend that there is insufficient evidence to support the company's assertions that the stun gun is safe. They have called for independent research.

Taser has repeatedly characterized research that its own employees or consultants helped conduct or write as independent. The company has also paid training fees and given valuable stock options to police officers involved in decisions to purchase the stun guns.

In an interview earlier this month, Steve Tuttle, Taser's vice president of communications, maintained the company's position that the Defense Department study was independent. He acknowledged that Taser employees had some involvement in the study but insisted that that did not influence the findings.

Taser officials have described the Defense research as "a major independent safety study." But Air Force researchers said the study was not meant to be a comprehensive review of stun-gun science or safety, and they made no findings on the device's safety.

Touting findings early on

Taser trumpeted results of the study long before the actual report came out on April 1. In an October news release, Taser Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith said, "This comprehensive independent study further supports the safety of Taser" and "reaffirms the lifesaving value of Taser technology."

That announcement had an immediate impact on Taser stock: It shot up 60 percent during the next month. Taser executives and board members sold 1.28 million shares for $68 million in November.

Since then, the stock has dropped dramatically as a series of deaths caused cities nationwide to reconsider purchases of Tasers and to delay deployments.

An ongoing investigation by The Republic has found that medical examiners have cited Tasers in 15 deaths across the country. They called it a cause of death in three cases, a contributing factor in nine cases and said the stun gun couldn't be ruled out as a cause of death in three cases.

Taser maintains that its stun guns have never caused a death.

Taser involvement

When the Defense Department first released its study, it made no mention of who was involved in the study.

Another version obtained by The Republic shows that Taser's CEO, director of technical services, general counsel, medical director, chief instructor, electrical engineer and vice president of communications were involved in various panels over five months.

The report also shows that companies doing business with Taser, including General Dynamics, were heavily involved in the study and, along with Taser executives, sat on a final "Independent External Review Panel" to examine all the findings.

Farlow, the spokesman for the Air Force Research Laboratory, said his office, not Taser, made the decision to strike the names from the final report in order to protect the privacy of researchers and scientists.

A separate panel of medical and scientific experts that did not include Taser employees wrote the final report.

Tuttle, the Taser spokesman, said the company's involvement does not minimize the report's significance or its independence.

"This was all pre-planning stuff," he said. "We didn't do the study itself." He added that government rules require manufacturers to be involved in such reviews of their products. "If you are going to do a study of Milk Duds . . . you are going to have to talk to the (makers) of Milk Duds."

But, according to the Air Force, Taser provided most of the data used in the study, which was supposed to look at the "effectiveness" of Tasers in order to provide guidance for officials in charge of purchasing non-lethal weapons.

Information gaps

Although researchers determined the stun guns were "generally effective for their intended use," researchers found significant "data gaps" in the information Taser provided, Farlow said.

Chief among those gaps: enough information to determine whether Tasers can cause seizures or induce ventricular fibrillation, the sudden irregular heartbeat characterized by a heart attack.

In addition, Taser apparently did not provide some information about injuries involving the stun gun. For example, researchers said in the study that "no reports were identified that describe bone fractures resulting from the rapid induction of strong muscle contraction" caused by the stun gun.

At the time that Taser officials were sitting on the panel, they had already been served legal notice that a Maricopa County sheriff's deputy was going to sue the company over a fractured back that he reportedly suffered when shocked with a Taser during a training exercise.

Former Deputy Samuel Powers was the first to file a product liability lawsuit against Taser; his case is scheduled to go to trial in June. A doctor hired by Taser last year concluded that a one-second burst from a Taser was responsible for Powers' injury.

Since then, several police officers from departments across the country have come forward with allegations of bone fractures that they blame on Taser shocks.

The study concluded that Tasers may cause several unintended side effects, "albeit with estimated low probabilities of occurrence." It also said the need to "rely on a database of case reports compiled by manufacturers also generates uncertainty in the results."

Farlow pointed out that the Defense study made no conclusions about the stun gun's safety.

When asked about Taser's characterization of the research as a "major, independent safety study," Farlow said: "The simple answer is consider the source. . . . The press and public relations folks are doing their jobs."

E-mail correspondence

Despite the fact that the Air Force lab's study made no findings on safety, the government officials who commissioned the study allowed Taser to issue a news release saying that the Defense Department considered "Tasers generally safe and effective."

E-mails show that although these officials were concerned about Taser's characterization of the study, their desire to support Taser prevailed.

"I've expressed my personal view to (Taser) that the company might want to take a different approach to their (public affairs) efforts" and "i.e., tone it down," wrote Capt. Daniel McSweeney, spokesman for the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, a Pentagon office that recommended purchasing Tasers for the armed services.

"My opinion is that they probably want to commission an independent (human effects) study, in which a variety of stakeholders participate," McSweeney said in a January e-mail from his office in Quantico, Va. "To settle this issue once and for all."

Dave DuBay, a Taser vice president, confirmed that McSweeney asked the company to temper its statements. He said McSweeney felt Taser is sometimes "too passionate in defense" of its stun guns. DuBay also confirmed that McSweeney asked Taser to commission its own independent study.

But DuBay said the government's study was independent and questioned whether the public would perceive a Taser-sponsored study to be independent.

Despite McSweeney's concerns, he still recommended backing Taser.

McSweeney's rationale

"My rationale is that Taser is, in effect, some kind of partner to us, since we purchase and field their systems," he wrote in the same e-mail. "Not supporting them can hurt us in the public's eye."

At issue in the e-mails were requests from Taser asking the government to put out a news release declaring the stun guns safe.

The e-mails were written after reports in the New York Times and other media raised questions over Taser's claims about the Defense study and if researchers actually found the stun guns safe.

In an interview this week, McSweeney confirmed that he told Taser officials they should "tone it down" and conduct their own independent study.

"I was referencing not just to the (study) but other things I have been privy to," he said, adding that Taser has been at the center of several controversial issues. "Given the ongoing questions regarding the health effects of Taser, it would behoove Taser to do an independent study."

McSweeney acknowledged that the Defense study was not comprehensive but called it an "excellent first step" and said that more studies are under way. He said that non-lethal weapons are needed in military zones and that the study served "an urgent need" by providing a foundation for the Defense Department.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Monte Kwinter on Tasers

May 18, 2005


Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): My question is for the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Minister, what are the provincial standards and protocols specifically governing the use of Tasers by police in Ontario?

Hon. Monte Kwinter (Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services): The member will know, or should know, that Tasers have been authorized for specific use in Ontario for some time. The only thing that has changed recently is that there was a particular Taser, an M26, and now there is a new and better Taser, an X26, and we've approved that for use. That is something that is available to police services across Ontario. They have protocols. They themselves have those protocols as to how they are to be used, and it's effective. We are convinced that they're less than lethal, and as a result they're a good alternative to a lethal weapon.**

Ms. Horwath: In Hamilton last week, police chased down a 15-year-old boy and shot him twice with a Taser. He didn't commit any crime. In fact, he wasn't even charged by police with any crime at all. When the police use Tasers on unarmed teenagers, frightened kids, don't you think there should be some Ontario standards for the police and their use of Tasers? Why haven't you developed any province-wide?

Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I can tell you that before we authorized the use of Tasers, we made sure that they were properly tested and that the proper procedures were in place. I cannot comment on a particular incident in a particular police service. That is something you have to deal with in that particular police service. I do not monitor the police services and their operation; that is the responsibility of the chiefs and their police services boards. All I can tell you is that in our ministry we evaluated the use of the Taser and we stand by our decision that it's a far better alternative than using a lethal weapon.**

**Yeah, only the taser is not being used in Ontario as an alternative to lethal weapons!

P.S. I don't know who "properly tested" your tasers, Mr. Kwinter, but the two tasers used on my brother were shown by an international testing laboratory to be 2.5 times and 84.5 times, respectively, more powerful than the manufacturer's specifications.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Taser official removed as adviser on stun gun study

May 12, 2005
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin researcher has removed Taser International's medical director as an adviser to a study of the safety of stun guns after critics said his involvement with the manufacturer tainted the research.
University of Wisconsin-Madison professor John Webster had described his two-year, $500,000 study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice as the first to look at the safety of stun guns independent of Taser, the Arizona-based company that makes the weapons.

But documents uncovered this week show Robert Stratbucker, an Omaha physician who is Taser's top medical officer, is one of four consultants to the study, which will look at how pigs' hearts react to electric shocks from the devices.

Reacting to the connection on Thursday, Webster told The Associated Press: "In view of this potential conflict of interest, I can make the statement that I have not received advice or paid Stratbucker and I will not use him in the future."

Stratbucker's studies are often cited by the company as evidence the weapons are a safe way to subdue unruly suspects. He has acknowledged receiving cash and stock options from Taser.

Tasers are used by more than 7,000 police agencies but blamed by Amnesty International in the deaths of more than 100 people in the United States and Canada since 1999.

USA TODAY first reported Stratbucker's link to Taser and the research Thursday. Stratbucker did not immediately return a phone call from the AP. (Related: Fairness of Taser study in question)

Webster said he listed the Taser official as a consultant to show he would have experts available for advice on the study, which is just getting underway.

"I'm acting independently and forming my own conclusions," said Webster, a professor emeritus of biomedical engineering.

In a statement, the Justice Department said the agency was aware of the Taser connection when granting the project. The department said Stratbucker had a small role that "would not influence the research goals, scientific measurement, data collection or conclusions."

In March, both Webster and a Taser spokesman told the AP the company had no ties to the research.

In his grant proposal, Webster proposed Stratbucker receive $18,000 in salary and travel expenses for his advice. Stratbucker's resume was included but did not mention his work for Taser, and Webster checked a box to deny any conflict of interest.

Amnesty International and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which calls the research cruel and unnecessary, called for an end to the study on Thursday.

"This is not independent and there's an appearance that there was an attempt to hide the conflict," said Edward Jackson, a spokesman for Amnesty International, which says more independent studies are needed to determine whether Tasers are safe.

Eric Sandgren, a UW-Madison professor who leads a committee overseeing animal research, had previously defended the study but said he was troubled by the revelations. He said removing Stratbucker was appropriate.

"I saw one of the strengths of this study as being that it is distanced from Taser," he said. "To the extent that this calls that into question, we have to address that as a university."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Fairness of Taser study in question

May 11, 2005
Kevin Johnson, USA Today

WASHINGTON — An adviser to a federally funded study concerning the safety of stun guns made by Taser International also is a paid consultant to Taser, the Justice Department acknowledges. The situation is raising questions about potential conflicts of interest in the $500,000 study, which is being done amid reports that dozens of people have died after being shocked with stun guns.
Robert Stratbucker, a physician from Omaha, is among four paid advisers to a two-year study that is being launched by John Webster, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin. Webster's application to the Justice Department for a research grant last fall cited Stratbucker as an adviser, but it did not mention that Stratbucker is a medical consultant to Taser, the nation's leading seller of stun guns.

Stratbucker has worked with Taser as the Arizona company has touted its stun guns — also known as Tasers — as non-lethal weapons that offer a safe way for police to subdue suspects. Taser, whose Web site lists Stratbucker as the company's medical director, has cited his research in promoting its stun guns.

About 7,000 of the nation's 16,000 police agencies have bought Tasers. But concerns about whether the weapons are safe have increased recently, as Amnesty International and The Arizona Republic have reported that more than 100 people have died since 1999 after being shocked with stun guns. The reports have led officials in Arizona, New Mexico, Wisconsin and elsewhere to launch inquiries into stun guns or to consider limits on when police can use them.

The Justice Department said in a statement to USA TODAY that Stratbucker's role in the Wisconsin study will be "small" and that it will "not influence the research goals, scientific measurement, data collection or conclusions." In an interview, Stratbucker rejected the notion that he has a conflict of interest. "I have never felt that I had any obligation ... to tailor the results of my research," he said. Separately, Webster said the study is an independent assessment of Tasers.

But critics of the study say Stratbucker's duel roles raise questions about the objectivity of Webster's work and about the Justice Department's vetting of grant applicants. "Dr. Stratbucker's involvement makes it clear who is really pulling the strings," said Mary Beth Sweetland, a vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Her group opposes the study's use of pigs to test the effects of Taser shocks. (Webster said the pigs are anesthetized during experiments and "feel no pain.") The results of the study "are a foregone conclusion," Sweetland said, making the research "cruel and pointless."

Stratbucker's presence is "a potential conflict of interest," said Hubert Williams, president of the Police Foundation, a think tank here that researches law enforcement issues and wants federal money to do its own stun-gun study. "We wouldn't do it."

The critics also cite Webster's written summary of his study that he filed with Justice. He said his premise was that "Tasers do not kill," and that he hoped "to find why these people are dying, and thus save lives."

Saturday, May 07, 2005

N.B. police probe Taser death

May 7, 2005

N.B. death after taser use being probed

May 7, 2005

MONCTON, N.B. -- The death of a 34-year-old New Brunswick man who collapsed after Mounties used a taser gun to subdue him is being investigated by RCMP.

Corporal Terry Kennedy, a spokesman for the RCMP, said yesterday that officers from Fredericton have taken over the investigation into the death of Kevin Geldart of Riverview.

Mr. Geldart died after Moncton RCMP officers shocked him with a taser, a high-voltage stun device, at a bar in Moncton late Thursday.

"When our members arrived, they were confronted by a man who was 6 foot 6 and about 300 pounds," Cpl. Kennedy said. "He was aggressive and violent toward the members. As a result, the taser was used to control the gentleman."

Cpl. Kennedy said officers handcuffed Mr. Geldart after he slumped to the floor. It was then that they realized he was unconscious and unresponsive.

An ambulance was called, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

Cpl. Kennedy said Mr. Geldart had been missing from a local psychiatric unit.

The RCMP investigation will include an autopsy. "Obviously, we want to find out exactly the cause of death," Cpl. Kennedy said.

The taser is becoming the subject of intense public and police scrutiny as a result of the growing number of deaths associated with its use.

At an inquest this month in London, Ont., Dr. Jim Cairns, Ontario's deputy chief coroner, said that since 2003, nine Canadians had died shortly after being shot by a police taser.

But Dr. Cairns said that experts nationwide agree the powerful stun guns didn't cause deaths. All nine people were determined to have died from the same cause: cocaine-induced excited delirium, which allows the affected person to feel no pain and exhibit superhuman strength before crashing.

"The evidence is overwhelming that [tasers have] saved many, many lives," Dr. Cairns told the Ontario inquest.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Tasers safe for police to use, coroner says

May 4, 2005

London, Ont. -- Tasers are safe and should be used even more frequently by Ontario police, a provincial coroner has told the inquest into a London man's death.

Since 2003, nine Canadians have died shortly after being shot by a police taser, but Dr. Jim Cairns said yesterday that experts nationwide agree the powerful stun guns didn't cause any deaths -- including the death in May, 2004, of Peter Lamonday.

All nine people, Mr. Lamonday included, were determined to have died from the same cause: cocaine-induced excited delirium, which allows that person to feel no pain and exhibit superhuman strength before crashing.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Coroner Finds Man Didn't Die From TASER

May 3, 2005
The Globe and Mail

LONDON, ONT. - A man who died in police custody after being shot three times by a taser didn't die from the device, Ontario's deputy chief coroner told an inquest yesterday.

Had Peter Lamonday died in the parking lot where he absorbed the shots, the powerful stun gun could be considered responsible, Dr. James Cairns said.

But because the London man died some 50 minutes after taking on eight London police officers, the taser clearly didn't kill him, Dr. Cairns said on the opening day of the inquest into Mr. Lamonday's death May 14, 2004.

"This is the big question: Do tasers kill?" Dr. Cairns said of the popular weapons that temporarily stop attackers with a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity.

Last year the British Columbia Police Complaints Commissioner ordered an investigation into the case of Robert Bagnell, a Vancouver man, who died last June after being stunned by a taser.

The report has not been released and late last month Mr. Bagnell's family demanded answers. They complained they have learned nothing, including the official cause of his death.

In London, Dr. Cairns told the jury: "If you're going to die from an electric shock, you die when you get the electric shock, not minutes or hours later.

"Death cannot be attributed to the taser if there is an interval between use and death."

A postmortem has ruled that Mr. Lamonday died of cocaine-induced excited delirium -- during which a person can feel no pain and exhibit incredible strength, but eventually crash.

Earlier, coroner's counsel David Carruthers told the jury that Mr. Lamonday, whose manner was described as "paranoid" by witnesses who saw him at a bar, smashed his head through the glass door of a nearby ceramics business and appeared unaffected.

The inquest, which is mandatory because Mr. Lamonday died in police custody, continues today.