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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Taser use scrutinized

January 26, 2008

A provincial court judge wants to see more study of the condition "excited delirium" to improve the use of police Tasers and prevent the deaths of people who are zapped. "People suffering from this condition need medical help; they need to be restrained to get that help," wrote Judge Fern LeReverend in a report on the 2004 death of Ronald Perry. "Death frequently ensues once they are restrained. This condition, although rare, arises from several different causes, including illicit drug use."


Perry, a 25-year-old Edmonton man with a history of illicit drug use, was said to have possessed superhuman strength as he struggled against as many as seven city cops trying to subdue him in March 2004, before he was hit multiple times with a stun gun, quit breathing, suffered brain damage and was taken off life support several days later.

LeReverend's report gives details of the erratic, psychotic and violent behaviour that led to Perry's arrest - including jumping off a balcony and physically attacking friends as well as cars at the intersection of 129 Avenue and 64 Street. LeReverend writes that excited delirium is a medical condition involving such "an altered level of consciousness affecting thinking and perception." And to prevent similar deaths in the future, the judge is recommending more information on the causes and treatment of excited delirium be obtained and shared - and that medical staff be funded to learn more about it.

"I recommend that when further information is obtained, it be provided to police, ambulance and emergency medical personnel so they can create suitable procedures to more successfully deal with people in this condition," he concludes.

While many experts, including Dr. Graeme Dowling from the medical examiner's office in Edmonton, have argued there's "no definitive case where Tasers have actually killed anybody," several highly publicized deaths following Taser use have had critics targeting the law-enforcement tool.

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