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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

BC RCMP tasered teen in handcuffs

April 2, 2008
Richard Watts, Victoria Times Colonist

West Shore RCMP officers twice used a Taser on a handcuffed 15-year-old boy while he sat in the back seat of their cruiser after being arrested for violating his curfew last month.

Lawyer Tom Morino, who is representing the teen, said his client told him one officer acted like it was a joke and even laughed. Although Morino admits the teen has anger problems, he argues there was no need to use the electro-shock device on him, given his slight build -- he weighs 135 pounds and is five-foot-10 -- and that he was already cuffed and in the cruiser. "You have to be a blind fool not to believe many police are using the Taser as an attitude-adjustment device," Morino said yesterday.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act forbids identification of the teen, who is awaiting trial on a mischief charge.

The teen is known to police and child welfare authorities and clearly has an anger issue, Morino said. He is living with his grandmother after social workers demanded he be removed from the family home out of fear for the safety of his younger sisters.

"But that does not justify this approach of 'Gee, I think you're going to be a jerk so I think I'm going to Taser you in anticipation,' " he said.

The boy was arrested on March 21 for being out past a 9 p.m. court-imposed curfew. The curfew was a condition of an interim release while the boy awaits a court appearance on a mischief charge.

It's not known how many officers took part in the arrest, but it was at least two, according to various statements. A police report about the incident, obtained by Morino after his client told him of the Taser, confirms the boy was in handcuffs before the device was used.

According to the report, the officers were trying to get the teen into the backseat of the cruiser when the boy "started to lift his legs as if he was going to kick." As he "was making an attempt to wiggle out of the car," an officer tasered him on the leg.

The report says pepper spray "was not a suitable tool" at the time because the boy was lying face down on the back seat. The Mounties got the teen into the car, but he lay "on his back and began kicking the right back door and window hard enough the car was shaking." So an officer opened the back door where the teen's head was and tasered him again, on the chest.

The report mentions two small burn marks on his chest, which a police officer told the teen were from a Taser and would heal. The teen, meanwhile, did not even recall being shot with a Taser, said the report.

West Shore Const. Tasha Adams confirmed the conductive energy device was used twice after the boy was handcuffed. But Adams said there will be no investigation outside the normal review process that accompanies use of the device and the ongoing investigation into the arrest. She said the boy was being combative and kicking the officers who had some safety concerns as they tried to get him in a car.

Adams also said she couldn't comment on the accusations the officers laughed after they applied the device. "But I would suggest when an individual is being combative with officers, there is not much time for laughing."

The teen's mother, whose name must also be kept confidential to protect the name of the boy, said her son spoke of officers laughing. She raised concerns about her son's safety that night as he was high on amphetamines when he was arrested and tasered.

"They are lucky they didn't kill him because he was on E (ecstasy) that night and he told me it felt like his heart was going to come right out of his chest," said the woman. She agreed her son has problems with anger. But if his behaviour warranted the use of the Taser, she questioned why he wasn't charged with resisting arrest or damaging property. The mother has not filed an official complaint thus far.

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