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Thursday, September 25, 2008

NYPD officer suspended after deadly taser incident

I have to add this poor man to the List of the Dead - had it not been for the taser, Iman Morales, 35 (armed with a 2.5-metre-long fluorescent light) would still be alive. I want the record to permanently show this unlawful/godawful use of a firearm (!!) that has yet to be proven safe on human beings.

September 25, 2008
Steven Edwards, Canwest News Service

NEW YORK - Prosecutors were investigating Thursday after a deranged naked man, who had been armed with a 2.5-metre-long fluorescent light, died hours after police hit him with a Taser dart.

Witnesses said Iman Morales, 35, was perched on a first-floor ledge of a rundown apartment block in Brooklyn on Wednesday when he used the light to poke at an officer who'd emerged from a window to remove him.

As onlookers began to laugh, a police officer among the Emergency Service Unit on the ground raised his Taser and fired. Witnesses watched in horror as the man at first appeared to freeze up, then toppled face-first onto the pavement below. He died a few hours after being taken to hospital.

"While the officers had radioed for an inflatable bag as the incident unfolded, it had not yet arrived at the scene when Morales fell," Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, spokesman for the New York City Police Department (NYPD), said in a statement following a preliminary investigation. "None of the ESU officers on the scene were positioned to break his fall, nor did they devise a plan to do so."

At least four NYPD officers were on the ground at the time of the incident, and one angrily waved off onlookers after Morales crashed to the ground.

A video of the incident is currently circulating on YouTube.

Browne said the officer who fired the Taser - formally called a Conducted Energy Device, or CED - did so at the direction of a lieutenant in charge at the scene.

Witnesses said Morales's mother was also present and begged the officers not to hurt her son, explaining he was ill. "You're all going to die with me," Morales was heard to shout during a mostly unintelligible rant.

The Brooklyn District Attorney is looking into the incident, which unfolded Wednesday afternoon, to see if criminal charges should be laid. He has directed the NYPD to not interview the officers involved. [Huh?!]

Browne said the NYPD has placed the lieutenant on modified duty, which means he's had to surrender his badge and gun. The officer has been given administrative duties.

The man's death has renewed the focus on the department's use of stun guns, which fire barbs up to 12 metres that deliver 50,000-volts of electricity, immobilizing their target.

A similar debate was sparked in Canada following the death last year of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport during an incident in which he was subdued with a Taser.

The NYPD expanded the use of Tasers this year, and now thousands of police sergeants have them on their belts as they patrol city streets. The department's guidelines - reviewed and re-issued as recently as June 4 - say that "where possible, the CED should not be used . . . in situations where the subject may fall from an elevated surface." They also say Tasers should be used against emotionally disturbed people only when they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Browne's statement says the lieutenant's order "appears to have violated guidelines."

Witnesses said Morales's mother had called police after she and her son argued. As they arrived at the building, he fled out of a third-floor window, made his way up to the fourth floor by the fire escape and unsuccessfully tried to enter another apartment, then descended to the first floor.

Police are heard on the video shouting for the man to "walk down now," and "move down."

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