March 26, 2009
by Tom Gilchrist | The Bay City Times
The Bay City Police Department policy on Taser use urges officers to consider a suspect's size - among other factors - when deciding whether to fire the weapon.
Friends of Brett Elder - a 15-year-old described by relatives as about 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds - have criticized police for firing the Taser at Elder, who died after an officer subdued him with the stun gun Sunday morning. Witnesses said the unarmed teen moved toward three male police officers after Brett Elder physically attacked a female at an apartment on Catherine Street.
A suspect's "relative size/stature" is the second of 12 circumstances listed for an officer to consider when controlling a situation.
"He's not some hulking kid, he didn't have a weapon and any one of them - let alone three - could have taken him down," said Flint lawyer David J. Nickola, one of several lawyers representing the estate of Brett Elder.
Nickola on Wednesday taped a segment with NBC's "Today" show that was expected to air this morning.
Brett Elder's funeral takes place today at 4 p.m. at Ambrose Funeral Home, 1200 Garfield Ave.
The police department's policy on "Use of Force" - obtained by The Times - also urges officers to consider circumstances such as "type of crime committed or attempted" before deciding whether to use a Taser.
An officer also should consider "conditions such as the number of officers involved, number of subjects involved and availability of back-up (officers)" before Taser use, according to the police policy.
Bay City Deputy Police Chief Thomas Pletzke declined comment Wednesday when asked if officers followed department policy in dealing with Brett Elder. The Michigan State Police are investigating the circumstances leading to Brett Elder's death.
The policy on "Use of Force" prohibits Bay City officers from using a Taser on a handcuffed subject.
Wendy Elder, 34, the late teenager's sister-in-law who said she witnessed the police confrontation with Brett Elder, maintains the teen had been handcuffed when an officer fired the stun gun.
Police deny that claim, and also dispute Wendy Elder's allegation that an officer fired the Taser twice in subduing Brett Elder.
The police policy also instructs an officer to consider whether a subject is under influence of alcohol or other drugs. Relatives said Brett Elder had consumed alcohol.
Brett Elder was one of about seven adults or teenagers inside the apartment when police officers tried to calm him down, witnesses said.
Bay City Police Chief Michael Cecchini said Brett Elder "became unruly and took a fighting stance against the officers" inside the apartment. At that point, an officer deployed the Taser, Cecchini said.
The weapon shoots two probes into a targeted subject's body, with the probes attached to the power source by insulated wires, according to police. A discharge of electricity disrupts the body's ability to send messages from the brain to the muscles, causing motor-skill dysfunction, according to police.
Dr. Kanu Virani conducted an autopsy on Brett Elder's body on Monday but hasn't announced preliminary results of the procedure.
Nickola, who is working with Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger on the case, said they have hired renowned forensic pathologist Werner Spitz to do a second autopsy on the teen today.
Fieger claims autopsy results "are expected to show (Brett Elder) died from being electrocuted by Taser causing his heart to defibrillate."
The Times could not reach Virani for comment about Fieger's contention.
One of the late teen's friends, 23-year-old Bethany Schuster of Flint, joined with several other to paint "The Rock" on 12th Street and Hammerberg Road in Flint this week to protest Brett's death.
Schuster and her boyfriend, Brandon Look, painted the Rock on Tuesday with birthday wishes for Brett, who would have turned 16 that day.
Using paint, they also added a message.
"Tasered to death by Bay City PD," the Rock read.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, March 26, 2009
March 26, 2009