You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Father of fatal Taser victim speaks out

"Recognizing that the Taser is, in fact, potentially lethal, we are urging Taser International and the police to do the right thing and reclassify the weapon as a weapon of last resort, next to the use of a firearm," he [Marcus Firman] said. "It's a fact now — it's lethal."

December 8, 2010
Barrie Examiner
By Morgan Ian Adams

COLLINGWOOD — The father of a man killed by police earlier this year says conductive energy weapons such as Tasers should be reclassified as lethal weapons.

On Monday, the province's Special Investigations Unit cleared the Collingwood OPP officer who administered the lethal shock to Aron Firman of any criminal wrongdoing. However, SIU director Ian Scott did pinpoint the Taser as the cause of the 27-year-old Collingwood man's death.

"The reality of it is, Aron didn't have to die," said Marcus Firman, who met with SIU officials on Monday to be briefed on Scott's report. "This is a tragedy on so many levels.

"If the officer knew it would be lethal, I would hope (the officer) would have considered other options when dealing with an unarmed man."

On June 24, two officers responded to the group home where Firman lived, to a call of an altercation. When officers arrived, they found Firman sitting on a chair in the backyard of the group home; according to the SIU, the officers attempted to question Firman, who grew increasingly agitated.

According to the SIU, Firman got out of his chair and "moved aggressively" toward the subject officer, a male. The other officer on the call, a female, attempted to intervene, but was struck in the face by Firman's elbow.

Firman advanced on the subject officer, who then discharged his Taser at Firman. He fell to the ground, unconscious, and when paramedics arrived on the scene, vital signs were absent. Firman was later pronounced dead at the General & Marine Hospital.

Marcus Firman says he was informed by the SIU that, based on witness statements, group home staff offered to perform CPR when they realized his son was in medical distress, but were refused by officers at the scene.

A post-mortem report indicated Firman died from "cardiac arrhythmia" precipitated by the Taser.

"The Taser is characterized as a less lethal or intermediate weapon both in the OPP operator recertification material and the use of force model," said Scott in a news release issued Monday afternoon. "However, in this incident, the Taser's deployment in my view caused Mr. Firman's death. Obviously, in this case, there is a dissonance between the post-mortem findings and the aforementioned classification of the Taser."

Scott said the officer could have reasonably thought the Taser would not be lethal based upon his training.

The pathologist report by Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario's Chief Forensic Pathologist, also determined Firman has underlying health conditions which "could" have predisposed him to arrhythmia; Marcus Firman says his son had a slightly-enlarged heart, and a "genetic marker" that occurs in roughly 20% of the population.

Firman says based on the report of the pathologist and Scott's comments, Tasers should be reclassified as "potentially lethal weapons.

In Firman's opinion, the officers could have relied on pepper spray, a baton, or hand-to-hand, in order to subdue his son. Aron Firman was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, but was not regarded as a violent individual.

Firman also says the officers did not appear to be trained to "de-escalate a situation" involving an individual with a mental illness; he says officers would have been aware they were responding to a group home environment where there were residents with a variety of mental illnesses.

"Recognizing that the Taser is, in fact, potentially lethal, we are urging Taser International and the police to do the right thing and reclassify the weapon as a weapon of last resort, next to the use of a firearm," he said. "It's a fact now — it's lethal."

Firman said he has spoken to the regional coroner's office, and has been informed there will be an inquest into his son's death. Under the Ontario Coroner's Act, an inquest is mandatory if the death occurs while an individual is in custody, or is being detained by a police officer.

No comments: