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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Settlement reached in teen's Taser death

August 4, 2009
By Steve Lyttle, Charlotte Observer


The City of Charlotte settled with the family of a 17-year-old who died in March 2008after being shot by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer with a Taser, according to an attorney representing the family.

The out-of-court agreement was announced Tuesday by attorney Ken Harris, who represented the family of Darryl Turner in a suit against the city.

Harris said he expects other litigation in the case, however.

Turner died March 20, 2008, after a confrontation with police at a north Charlotte grocery store where Turner had worked.

The officer who fired the Taser was not charged, but he was disciplined by police.

Police later determined that Officer Jerry Dawson Jr. violated department policy with the way he shocked Turner with the Taser gun. An autopsy showed the teenager's heart was pumping so fast and chaotically from the stress of the confrontation and the Taser shot that it stopped pumping blood properly.

Dawson was suspended for five days without pay in July 2008.

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Harris did not disclose the amount of the settlement but described it as “very substantial.”

City legal officials could not be reached.

While saying the settlement closes the case against the city, Harris said the matter probably is not closed.

“This is a tragedy that Darryl's relatives hope will never be visited upon another family,” he said. “In light of that perspective, I must note that there will likely be litigation in this matter concerning other parties.”

Harris did not specify who else might be a subject of litigation by Turner's family.

The Taser is a weapon that typically uses compressed nitrogen to shoot two tethered needle-like probes that penetrate skin and deliver an electric shock. It is designed to subdue a person temporarily.

The incident which led to Turner's death happened at a Food Lion store on Properity Church Road. According to court documents, police were called after the store manager asked Turner to leave and he refused. Store surveillance video showed Turner at the customer service desk, knocking over a display and throwing an umbrella. He then moved closer to a store manager and employee, at one point raising his arm and pointing at the manager.

The video then showed Dawson walking through the front door, carrying what appears to be his Taser. Dawson approached Turner with the Taser pointed at him. Turner took a step toward the officer, then continued to walk past him.

It was unclear from the video when Turner was shocked, but police said it happened as Turner stepped toward the officer.

In an investigation which followed the incident, police determined that Dawson held the trigger of the Taser for 37 seconds, until Turner fell. The officer later shocked Turner a second time, for five seconds. According to the CMPD report on the incident, a review board “determined that rthe initial decision to discharge the Taser was within our procedures, but the prlonged use of the Taser was not.”

In addition to the suspension, Dawson also was given additional training on proper use of the Taser.

In the statement announcing the settlement, Harris praised city officials for “their thorough investigation of this matter” and for the city's “openness throughout the process.”

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