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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mom claims cops tasered her neck

September 28, 2008
Susan Lazaruk, The Province

Vancouver police say a teen mother was Tasered on her arm and upper back after three hours of talks failed to persuade her to give up custody of her son -- but the teen told The Province she was zapped on the neck.

Misha Peterson, 16, told The Province three or four officers held her down on a bed and zapped her twice on the neck until she let go of her baby, a boy named Taige.

Misha had shown The Province red marks on her neck where she said she was hit with the Taser, capable of delivering 50,000 volts of energy.

"She's got the two marks on the back of her neck," said Doreen Duncan, the grandmother of Scott Michell, Misha's boyfriend and the baby's dad. "There's nothing on the arm or shoulder." Const. Jana McGuinness told a news conference Friday that officers touched the five-foot-one, 110-pound teen's arm and upper back with the Taser at the end of "emotionally intense" negotiations to attempt to take custody of the one-month-old baby.

She couldn't be reached for further comment on the weekend.

Spokesman Const. Tim Fanning said he wasn't familiar with the file and couldn't comment.

Friday, McGuinness defended the officers' decision to Taser the teen.

"Some people may criticize our actions, but there was a child's life in the balance here," she said.

"The last thing we would have ever wanted to do was get in a tug-and-war situation with the mother." The mom was seated at the time and officers were able to retrieve the baby, who they say has been critically ill since birth, from her lap, she said.

McGuinness said the mother was seated and her body at times was over the child.

"Officers felt it was critical to intervene because the actions of the mother led them to believe the baby would be smothered," she said.

"The use of the Taser allowed us to bring this to a safe conclusion for the mother and the child," she said.

Police were called Monday afternoon to Scott's apartment by social workers after Misha failed to return to her foster home on Sunday. Scott isn't allowed to see the child without adult supervision.

McGuinness wouldn't reveal how many officers were involved.

Police didn't identify what condition the baby was born with nor confirm Misha is the mother involved, but they say a woman was arrested under the Mental Health Act and not charged.

Duncan said the baby was healthy except for a minor brain condition and the couple spent their days with Taige, although Scott lives with friends and Misha is in foster care.

"They had a stroller and they went everywhere together," she said. "They're used to having the baby all the time and it's like a part of them has been wrenched out." She said Misha absconded with Taige after social workers told her there would be a custody hearing and Misha would have to earn her baby back.

"How do you earn your baby back?" Duncan asked.

A lawyer has offered to help them but Duncan said she wants to discuss the situation with Misha before pursuing legal action.

McGuinness said the incident would be reviewed internally and with the Ministry of Children and Families.

A ministry spokesman said he couldn't discuss any issue under police investigation and he couldn't confirm that social workers were present at the incident.

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