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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mentally disabled man sues Toronto police after bedroom tasering

October 8, 2008
TAMARA KING, The Canadian Press
Globe and Mail

TORONTO — The case of a mentally disabled man allegedly zapped with a taser when Toronto police burst into his bedroom highlights the need for an ongoing national debate on the use of the stun guns, a prominent lawyer said Tuesday.

The family of George Lochner is suing the police for more than $9-million, claiming the man was beaten and zapped with a taser in August of 2006 when officers entered the family home looking for his brother, Silvano, who was wanted for threatening a neighbour.

Armed with a warrant, police were searching for Silvano when they came across George, who has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old and was sleeping at the time.

The sequence of events is unclear.

George, 43, has difficulty explaining what happened and the police force's statement of defence does not contain many details of the encounter. The family's lawyer, Clayton Ruby, says photographs of Mr. Lochner's body taken one day after the incident show he was zapped with a taser in five places.

“Tasering someone on at least five separate occasions is inhumane and wrong. Just wrong,” Mr. Ruby said.

“He's an unarmed man in his own bed.”

The pictures, displayed at a news conference Tuesday, show marks that resemble two side-by-side cigarette burns on various parts of Mr. Lochner's body. He was also photographed with a black eye.

Mr. Ruby says the officers used “abusive and unnecessary force” with the five-foot-10, 220-pound Mr. Lochner.

“I can see how George might seem menacing to somebody. He's large... and he speaks in a peculiar way,” Mr. Ruby said.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Although the Toronto force is the focus of the lawsuit, Mr. Ruby said the case has national implications.

“I think it's very important that there continue to be an ongoing debate about the wisdom of this technique. This is just one little piece of that debate, in my view,” he said.

More than 20 people have died in Canada after being hit with tasers, which can deliver a shock of up to 50,000 volts.

The company points out the devices have never been directly blamed for a death.

In a statement of defence, police say Mr. Lochner tried to attack them. The document states officers encountered the man in a bedroom and told him not to move, but he “immediately tried to attack members of the team and eventually he was subdued.”

The statement also says Silvano had “become increasingly violent and aggressive towards police and others.”

“It is our very firm belief that our officers acted reasonably and responsibly given what they were faced with,” said police spokesman Mark Pugash, who declined to discuss the details of the case.

Police use tasers out of convenience, said Mr. Ruby, who added that rather than tackling an aggressor, officers find it's more efficient to use the stun gun.

“They don't actually have to get their shirt mussed,” Mr. Ruby said.

“[Toronto police] Chief [Bill] Blair is addicted to tasers and that addiction has to be stopped.”

Several reviews on the use of stun guns are under way across the country.

Recently, a report commissioned by the RCMP said national standards, more resources and better co-ordination are needed to ensure officers are properly trained to use tasers.

In Mr. Lochner's case, his lawyers also plan to challenge the validity of the warrant. The warrant was signed, but in a space designed for warrants issued in Ontario but for use in other provinces, said Brian Shiller, a Toronto lawyer who is working with Mr. Ruby on the case.

On that basis, the search police conducted before Mr. Lochner was tasered would have been illegal, Mr. Shiller said.


Nick W from Canada writes: Fascists.

Conservatives Lie from Canada writes: More disgraceful, criminal actions from the people who are supposed to protect Canadians.

Fire these pigs.

Jah Nee Kah Sun from Canada writes: Get your very own 400,000 volt stun gun in the States. Freaks out the cops every time.

Ryan Weal from Vancouver, Canada writes: Sounds like the police are prone to having some sort of "excited delirium" when investigating petty crimes.

Rain Couver from Canada writes: I say we taser each police officer that was involved with this situation 5 times and beaten until they have a black eye by George Lochner.

Tamara Shiels from Victoria, Canada writes: Police have gotten out of hand with the tasers and they should be banned from using the taser. Makes you wonder if they are really a tad scared cause they use it so freely. I hate to say it but some police have the attitudes that they are above the law and more superior than the rest of us. Not!!! Heads up we pay your salaries. Time some of you got a tad more humble you are not better than the rest of us.

dreaming of a green party majority from Canada writes: if they give this guy 8 million dollars take it out of the police budget so that will think the next time they abuse this instrument

C. Beresford Tipton from Toronto, Canada writes: Consider the circumstances. A man is sleeping in his bed and a bunch of guys break into his house in the middle of the night and start shouting commands at him. What would your reaction be? It wouldn't be unreasonable in such circumstances to defend oneself. Factor into the scenario a person with the mental capacity of the man the police tasered. Is it any wonder he became agitated? I am sure the Toronto Police will try and blame the man they mistreated for the way they treated him. I wonder what a reasonable member of the police service would do in similar circumstances in the middle of the night in their dwelling? A little tactical planning would go along way to preventing this sort of thing from occurring.

Maurice Caissy-Cyr from Canada writes: Police are using taser gun like drunk driver use to go on the road 30 years ago. They use to say, no danger, I know what I am doing.

Then some come with a different approach, drunk driver should be out from driving. Drunk driver do wrong sometime, and taser gun do wrong sometime. It is so easy to drive drunk, it is so easy to taser, it not a gun, it is not a knive.

But lately, It kill a lot, and when it is suppose to be use 1 time like in experience on cop to show them how it is painfull, they in return use it 5 to 10 time. When the guy is in paint and jumping on the floor, may be it is because he is dying, not because he want to attack. But do police really care when they are in trouble and scare

Jo Blo from as far from Toronto as possible, Canada writes: "The company points out the devices have never been directly blamed for a death."

What a crock!

Dr Demento from Winnipeg, Canada writes: "The company points out the devices have never been directly blamed for a death."

And tobacco companies still maintain that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer . . .

Tusker 23 from Toronto, Canada writes: "The company points out the devices have never been directly blamed for a death."

Because it's extremely difficult to prove that tasering stopped the victim's heart. Strange though, the number of people who have died immediately after being tasered though, isn't it?

Some police officers act like they're cowboys, and use far too much force -- way in excess of what's required, particularly in cases like this, against an unarmed man.

True North from Canada writes: Welcome to Harper's New Canada - the police hear Harper's 'get tough' message too.

True North from Canada writes: Either tasers are killing people or it is the police. The police say it is not the tasers.

Ghetto Dude from Istanbul, Turkey writes: Taser is being used for punishment purposes only. The police act as a legislative force by defining crime as "misbehaving of the serfs before their noble officers", the police act as the judiciary force by converting people into suspects and suspects into criminals within seconds, and the police execute the penalty without delay: TASER!
Has there been one single incidence in which tasering worked for the benefit of the society? Even the bus butcher was not tasered but lots of people died of taser attacks of these cops for having done nothing. This story looks like a Hollywood film supposedly taking place in Guatemala.

Technically speaking, no substance can directly be blamed for a death. Your heart stops beating and that is why you die. For eg, if you are beheaded this does not mean the sword has killed you, you are alive for some instants without a head until your heart stops beating. So your death may be due to your own heart failure, a healthy person should have survived it.

Come on, has anyone of you thought of becoming a policeman for once? I personally would do the dishes instead. Are they working hard for choosing these sickos among applicants?

Make them pay that 9 million please, next time they may think twice.

My Cat Knows Better from Hamilton, Canada writes: It is difficult to make a judgement from the limited information in this article and the sound bites on the six o'clock news. That being said, I think that the taser has become a tool of convenience for some members of the police forces in this country. It is easy, especially if you want to believe that it is harmless. Unfortunately, the evidence is mounting that the taser is deadly in far too many instances where it is used. Its use in this case was in hind sight, which is 20/20, not is any way justifiable. My sense is that the victim will win in this case. The problem in my mind is not the money, but the fact that until the use of this tool is strictly regulated, it abuse by over zealous police officers will continue, so will the deaths. I am also concerned about the ease with which these things can apparently be imported from the US. They should be banned, along with handguns and assault rifles. There is no justification for private ownership of these weapons.

Grassroots are the wave of the future from Canada writes: Welcome to Nazi Germany. When do the concentrations camp start opening?

J M from Calgaristan, Canada writes: You vill kneel before zee neocon revolutionary government. Vee do no tolerate zee volk vis zee deficincies. Heil Harper, heil Harper, heil Harper.

Spence Cole from Vancouver, Canada writes: It is not the Police Service that is being sued for $9 million. Its the Toronto taxpayer that is being sued for $9 million.

I am all for police being able to use force to defend themselves and protect others. But in this case, maybe the best thing to do was to back up 1 metre and close the guy's bedroom door. If I, as a lay person, know that is a simple solution, why can't a phlanx of police officers know?

If the police want to lose the right to lose the right to use the stun gun, then they should keep using it in an inappropriate way.

brian silva from Canada writes: he should sue his brother silvano instead. furthermore, when a police officer tells you not to move, the smart thing to do is not to move.

BeB AmomA from Canada writes: Another taser victim. What about the dude who beheaded the kid on the bus. Betcha the cops didn't taser him. The cops didn't even shoot him. Tasering is about power and abuse of power. Cops..... yeah.... you know what I'm thinkin.....

brian silva from Canada writes: my neighbour has an autistic daugther who is half this guy's size and a third of his age. she has kicked out walls, toilets, windshields, television screens, etc. to name a few things. her parents are black and blue from bite marks, punches, fingernails, etc. there is no telling when, how, and why she flips out - anything can be a trigger. so let's not jump so quickly to conclusions as to what happened in that bedroom. the guy most likely freaked when the cops barged in...

Patricia F. from Berlin, Germany writes: If someone burst into MY bedroom, I would also react violently. Who wouldn't?! My question is: WHEN will these lethal weapons be outlawed?!

Saskatchewan Seal Hunters Assoc. from Canada writes: Good grief.........when will this insanity end. And the cops wonder why they have no respect. Gestapo bas*ards.

doctor business from vancouver, Canada writes: "Police use tasers out of convenience, said Mr. Ruby, who added that rather than tackling an aggressor, officers find it's more efficient to use the stun gun."

Actually police use these when they wouldn't bother to tackle someone - that is why they use it. Same goes for pepper spray.

Turns out that by making "less lethal weapons" the effect isn't that police stop using lethal weapons as often. Turns out they use them when they wouldn't need or use weapons in the first place. Also, they can be trigger happy without much repercussion so they use it when even tackling someone (sleeping at home in own bed) would be heavy handed. My friend in Portland was tasered for riding his bike at night time without proper lights (the logic of the law is that you endanger yourself without lights... the idea of endangering someone with a TASER to stop them and tell them they need lights is beyond absurd). Police use this violent weapon on people who are no threat to them at all, sometimes people who the police have no right to even be ordering around because they are law abiding (sleeping in own bed)!

Basically the TASER is a new kind of violence that wasn't there before. There is minimal overlap and displacement of "traditional" violence. It's just more violence.

Frankly a good cop is one who doesn't need to carry a weapon. The UK police use to pride themselves on that. Laws aren't enforced by force. That force is just supposed to be for the rare exceptions - and even then force isn't appropriate mostly. Laws get followed because people want them. This is a democracy. Our laws are for us. Sadly, it's falling apart because we expect police to be gods of force rather than human champions of common sense and good reasoning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice story, please note the number of times this person was Tasered and is just fine. I guess the only real link to deaths is DRUGS