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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Officers removed from taser death lawsuit

Patrick Lee, 21, was HIT WITH A TASER NINETEEN (19) TIMES in September 2005. He died.

Official cause of death? "Excited delirium" of course. That thing that conveniently kills people dead when police are involved.

Taser International has been dismissed from the family's lawsuit. "Not enough evidence to try them." And the taser that was used NINETEEN TIMES on Patrick Lee? It was fine, just fine!! "There was nothing defective about it. There was nothing UNREASONABLY DANGEROUS about it, BASED ON ALL THAT THE PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEYS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DISCOVER ABOUT THE WEAPON over the course of a couple years."

(For more on what UNREASONABLY DANGEROUS means, see: Taser subtly shifts its safety claims again.)

The city of Nashville will remain part of the lawsuit. The judge said the use of a Taser was legitimate, but she wasn't sure if the officers were properly trained. "It is safe to say that Metro's own student guide left TASER-CERTIFIED OFFICERS with A POTENTIALLY CONFUSED UNDERSTANDING AS TO WHEN AND HOW THE TASER DEVICE SHOULD BE ACTIVATED, particularly if the first application did not have immediate effect."

And where on earth would the potentially confusing training material have come from? You guessed it!!

Meanwhile, over in New Orleans, Winnfield Police Officer Scott Nugent, was fired from his job and faces manslaughter charges after he shot Baron Pikes, also 21, with a taser gun ONLY NINE TIMES within 14 minutes in January 2008. The coroner found the death of Baron "Scooter" Pikes to be homicide by Taser.

January 28, 2009
Reported By Dennis Ferrier, WSMV Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Patrick Lee was thrown out of the Mercy Lounge for bizarre behavior several years ago. The bouncers called police, and the trouble began.

Lee, 21, was hit with a Taser 19 times. More than a dozen police officers couldn't control the shirtless and seemingly super-strong young man.

Lee died there in police custody. The coroner called it drug-induced excited delirium. His dad, songwriter Earl Bud Lee, called it excessive force.

"I would just hope everybody would please, please not let this go away and respond to that Taser situation, because I do believe that's what killed him," Earl Bud Lee said in 2005.

But a grand jury decided nothing criminal happened, and so the family filed a civil suit for excessive force.

All of the officers on the scene, Taser -- the company that makes the weapon -- and the city for not properly training its officers were all sued.

Monday night, more than three years after the lawsuit was filed, Judge Aleta Traugher dismissed seven officers from the lawsuit as well as the company, Taser. There was not enough evidence, she said, to try any of them.

"The Taser weapon, the gun, performed just as it is supposed to perform," said Darrell Townsend, attorney and case analyst. "There was nothing defective about it. There was nothing unreasonably dangerous about it, based on all that the plaintiff's attorneys have been able to discover about the weapon over the course of a couple years."

What's left are three police officers -- the two that fired the Taser 19 times and the officer who held Lee with a knee in his back -- and the city, because while judge Traugher said the use of a Taser is legitimate, she said she isn't sure if the officers were properly trained.

Metro makes every officer take a four-hour Taser course before being issued a weapon. Each officer, including the chief of police, is also shot with a Taser just to understand how it works.

Traugher said, "It is safe to say that Metro's own student guide left Taser -certified officers with a potentially confused understanding as to when and how the Taser device should be activated, particularly if the first application did not have immediate effect."

That's why part of this lawsuit will go to trial.

After Lee's death in 2005, Metro police were stripped of their Tasers. Now only shift supervisors carry the weapons and must be called to a scene if responding officers believe a Taser is needed.

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