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Friday, June 23, 2006

Dead man's family sues police and Taser company

June 23, 2006
Canadian Press

VANCOUVER -- The parents and sister of a man repeatedly shot by police with a Taser weapon are suing for his death in what their B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit claims is gross negligence.

In June 2004, Robert Bagnell, 44, was jolted with 50,000 volts of electricity while being subdued by Vancouver police officers. A report conducted later by Victoria police said Bagnell died from cardiac arrest due to cocaine-induced psychosis.

Taser International Inc, the maker of the X26 Tasers used on Bagnell, is named in the lawsuit, along with the Vancouver Police Department, police Chief Jamie Graham and five other Vancouver police officers.

The statement of claim, filed Thursday, said two police officers repeatedly shot Robert Wayne Bagnell, who was unarmed and represented no threat to anyone, with two weapons manufactured by the defendant Taser International."

The lawsuit accuses the police department of unlawful acts and gross negligence for failing to train its officer in the use of the Taser.

Bagnell's father, also named Robert, his mother Janna, and sister Patricia Gillman accuse Taser of failing to conduct independent safety testing of its products, and promoting the Taser as "non-lethal when it knew or ought to have known that they were lethal and had caused deaths."

It also accuses police of "concealing the X26 Taser weapons that were used on Robert Wayne Bagnell from persons investigating the circumstances of his death."

It also claims the police department concealed the circumstances of Bagnell's death from his family, and arranged for the cremation of his body when they should have known the family would want an independent autopsy.

A 700-page report by Victoria police looking into Bagnell's death cleared the officers in connection to the death, but recommended better training and tracking of Taser deaths.

The lawsuit asks for general and special damage awards and for an injunction stopping the defendants from selling or using the X26 Taser weapons in British Columbia.

"Although more than 190 people have died after being shot by Taser weapons, including the X26 Taser, the defendants. . .continue to promote and market the weapons as 'non-lethal' weapons," the lawsuit states.

A statement of defence had not yet been filed by the defendants.

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