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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Winnipeg mother sues Taser manufacturer over son's death

July 21, 2010
Matt Preprost, Winnipeg Free Press

WINNIPEG — The mother of a Winnipeg teen, who died after police stunned him multiple times with a Taser in July 2008, has filed a lawsuit against the weapon-maker after an autopsy linked his death to the weapon.

Michael Langan, 17, died after police shocked him twice with a Taser in a back lane in July 2008. Autopsy results obtained by the Winnipeg Free Press said Langan's death was caused by a heart arrhythmia brought on by the Taser shocks.

His mother, Sharon Shymko, filed documents on Monday claiming Taser International, the Arizona-based manufacturer of the stun guns Winnipeg police carry, failed to design and calibrate its products "in a manner that would ensure it would not discharge voltage so as to inflict lethal injuries."

"Tasers, whether Taser International admits it or not, are lethal weapons," said family lawyer Jay Prober. "I think it's time Taser International admitted that. We intend to pursue them vigorously on this lawsuit and hold them accountable.

"There are too many deaths and serious injuries caused by this weapon," he said.

The lawsuit also alleges Taser International failed to secure Canadian regulatory approval for its Tasers, and for promoting them as "non-lethal" when they have been known to have caused deaths in the past.

Taser International didn't respond Tuesday to calls for comment, but have said in the past they stand behind the safety of their products.

Shymko has also named the City of Winnipeg, police Chief Keith McCaskill, and two unidentified constables in her lawsuit, which seeks unspecified financial and other damages.

Shymko alleges the constables "acted in a high-handed, arrogant and malicious manner" that resulted in her son's death.

The lawsuit names McCaskill as liable for the actions of his constables, and according to the Provincial Police Act, the city is obliged to pay all damages and costs awarded against him.

The Winnipeg Police Service said they can't comment on the matter because it's before the courts.

An autopsy report said two darts hit Langan above his collarbone and on the left side of his chest.

Contributing to the death was a heart abnormality, said the report.

The report also indicated Langan had injuries on his scalp, trunk and arms and legs as well as a high volume of alcohol in his system. The teenager also had marijuana in his system.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You go Mrs. Shymko!!!!...wish we could join you....Riki Bagnell Mother of Robert.