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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Strange Career of Dr. Richard Carmona - Dr. Taser / Mr. Clorox

November 28, 2011
by DARWIN BOND-GRAHAM, counterpunch

On November 16 about two-hundred and fifty Oaklanders convened a general assembly in the city’s central square, Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza. It was yet another experiment in direct democracy, one of many public meetings held since the city’s encampment was established a month earlier. Buoyed by a massive march to UC Berkeley’s campus the day before, Oakland’s occupiers floated proposals to guide the movement’s next steps.

A national day of action against the coordinated police crackdown on various occupy encampments around the nation received 90% of votes. An occupation of a park on 19th and Telegraph got another 90% of votes cast. Before adjourning, the assembly opened the floor to general announcements. Protesters from San Francisco spoke last. They were worried the police were coming for them again, armed with batons and pepper spray. “Please come help us defend ourselves,” they asked. Taking this into consideration, the Occupiers adjourned.

Just a block away on the same day another kind of “assembly” was taking place, the Clorox Company’s annual shareholders meeting held in the corporation’s office tower at 1221 Broadway. While a contractor tallied proxy votes, Clorox’s executives, directors, and representatives of its major shareholders huddled to chart their future.

Clorox’s board of directors was re-elected. It’s directors in turn recommended a package of executive compensation for the year ahead. Chair and CEO Don Knauss was paid $9.1 million. VP Lawrence Peiros was approved for $2.9 million in pay and stock. Most of the other executives received similar seven figure packages.

It’s likely that Clorox’s leadership also talked about the Occupy encampment, rallies, and assemblies occurring just steps outside their building. It’s quite likely they had been worrying if the protests would disrupt their annual meeting. Clorox, like other major corporations with offices in Oakland, is a member of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, one of several business organizations that had pressured the Mayor to send in the cops on a mission to violently evict the movement.

On the Clorox committee making recommendations regarding compensation is one “Dr.” Richard H. Carmona. Carmona has been a board member of the Oakland-based Clorox since 2007. In that time he has been paid several hundred thousand in fees, and has obtained an option on upwards of 7,000 shares in the company. Carmona is a wealthy man.

Guiding aspects of Clorox’s corporate decision making is only one of Carmona’s jobs, however. He’s much more involved in a different company headquartered in his home state of Arizona.

Dr. Carmona joined the board of Taser International in the same year he joined Clorox. Not coincidentally, that was just after he left office as the 17th Surgeon General of the United States under the administration of George W. Bush. Taser International is what you think it is; the company that makes and sells the electronic guns popularly known by their most famous brand name. Taser’s biggest customers are police departments.

According to various accounts, Carmona joined the Army in 1967, just as the Vietnam War was getting hot. He quickly became a member of the Army Special Forces known as the Green Berets, and learned medicine by treating fellow soldiers in the battlefield. After the war—in which he became a highly decorated combat veteran—he attended medical school, earning a bachelors degree from UCSF in 1979. Carmona’s early medical career was spent mostly as a nurse and paramedic.

In 1986 Carmona joined the Pima County Sheriff’s Office where he would become a leader of the SWAT team, and also worked as a police medic. Carmona killed in the line of duty in 1999, shooting a mentally ill man who fired at him. The deceased had reportedly killed his father earlier that day with a knife.

In Pima County, Carmona served in different management roles in the healthcare system while working as a cop. Lacking the advanced research and education that such jobs require, he obtained a Masters in Public Health from the University of Arizona in 1998.

It was out of this context, somewhat out of the blue, that George W. Bush nominated Carmona for the post of Surgeon General in 2002. Physicians from the University of Arizona Medical School, where Carmona lectured, even criticized the nomination. Against Carmona’s confirmation, Dr. Charles Putnam wrote to Senator Ted Kennedy saying the nominee’s work as a sheriff’s deputy was in direct conflict with his oath as a doctor to do no harm. Putnam concluded that Carmona’s “panache in the face of objective danger has on occasion overwhelmed his identity as a physician.” Even so, Carmona was eventually confirmed, and by some reports was competent in office, even emerging as a critic of the Bush administration after his departure.

As a board member of Taser International Carmona sits at that table with other retired military officers and representatives of major investors, some who specialize in investing in weapons manufacturing companies. In 2010 Carmona was paid $30,000 in fees and given another $58,000 in stock options as compensation by the company. All told he owns about 25,000 shares of Taser International stock.

In the world of corporate governance Carmona is considered an “independent” director of Taser because he is not an official employee, and because his equity stake is less than 1% of outstanding shares. Nevertheless, Carmona has a stake in the company’s fortunes. His compensation there is ultimately linked to how many Tasers the company sells.

It should come as no surprise to readers that the Oakland Police Department is a major customer of Taser International. According to the OPD’s 2010 Training Section Report, the department currently owns and fields 530 model X-26 Tasers. The City Council authorized purchasing most of these weapons in 2008 with $645,000, and tacked on an appropriation of another $55,000 every subsequent year for training and other costs associated with fielding them. The Oakland City Council even chose to waive the normal competitive bid process, apparently because Carmona’s company, Taser International is the only authorized distributor of the weapons in California.

In Taser International’s 2010 annual report the company notes that one of its primary problems is the possibility that local governments will not buy their X-26 weapons, which account for the bulk of sales revenues. The company states:

“Most of our end-user customers are government agencies. These agencies often do not set their own budgets and therefore, have limited control over the amount of money they can spend. In addition, these agencies experience political pressure that may dictate the manner in which they spend money. As a result, even if an agency wants to acquire our products, it may be unable to purchase them due to budgetary or political constraints.”

In the case of Oakland, neither the city’s dire fiscal situation, nor widespread opposition within the community scuttled the 2008 Taser deal. Officers wielded Tasers during the several evictions of Occupy Oakland.

In March of 2010 San Francisco’s Police Commission again rejected spending upwards of $1 million to outfit officers with Taser weapons.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Carmona’s old stomping grounds, is a Taser International customer.

Darwin Bond-Graham is a sociologist who splits his time between New Orleans, Albuquerque, and Navarro, CA. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He can be reached at:darwin@riseup.net

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Letter from a Concerned Canuck

In response to this November 18th report: "Cop sues taser after riding the lightning" I received the following letter from "Concerned Canuck":

Questions- so many questions. Judging from the news of this lawsuit against Taser International, it would seem some police are finally waking up to the real risks, after dozens have suffered life-altering injuries after 'riding the lightning'? Or worse, the Tucson PD officer last week, who suffered a fatal massive heart attack a day after a Taser training exercise?

More questions- Will it take the Taser-related death of a child, a celebrity or another cop, before someone, anyone in government somewhere, agrees that a federal investigation is warranted to clear the air on how such a now legally defined 'deadly weapon' (defined as such by a recent ninth circuit court decision in North Carolina) could be introduced as a 'non-lethal police tool'. Why was the lethality not recognized by anyone a decade ago when Tasers were foisted on us by eager and in some cases compensated cops?

C'mon now - 700 people are dead after being 'tased'. Taser International's numbers game of comparing the percentage of fatalities to the number of uses, doesn't mean a thing to the families who have lost loved ones. All they know is their loved one, who was alive one minute, was dead the next. Taser's lawyers and the company's allies in the Justice, Science and Medical communities have almost always thrown it back on the victims, blaming them for bringing such unfortunate outcomes upon themselves. They cite quite rightly that many had previous health problems, were drunk, high on drugs, had mental illnesses or ran away too vigorously from their Taser-toting pursuers. Some probably were violent. But did all 700 fall into this category of the truly violent? Robert Dziekanski didn't. He was a confused but compliant traveller, newly arrived in Vancouver, who was felled by an RCMP Taser and then multi-stunned while being held down by four burly officers. Nor did Darryl Turner-- a healthy teenager in Charlotte, NC-- who was shocked twice for having a temper tantrum at his workplace. His family was awarded $10-million dollars last summer. This award came after a jury of average citizens agreed Taser International made fatal mistakes by not warning law enforcement of the real risks, after numerous opportunities to do the right thing and own up to their errors.

The company motto about 'saving life' didn't ring true for the 700.

At the heart of the Turner case is the jaw-dropping revelation that in 2006, company execs were informed by their own research scientist that a fit young volunteer suffered cardiac arrest during a training exercise. Luckily a defribrillator was on-hand and the volunteer was saved. But it proved cardiac capture was indeed possible. But instead of warning its police customers or the public of this shocking occurrence, Taser International kept silent and continued selling its products. A warning to avoid chest shots didn't come until late 2009, buried in a training bulletin. That is nearly FOUR YEARS that Taser knew of the cardiac risks, but they FAILED TO WARN. Canadian media were the first to discover and report this news about the risks of chest shots- although Taser reacted by saying they were just trying to "avoid the controversy" whenever there was an unexplained death during a Taser incident. The company had inside information- that cardiac capture was possible- but they didn't admit this. Not yet.

It was May 2010, when Taser finally released a much longer list of risks and warnings - in the fine print of another training bulletin. However there was no mention to law enforcement that the company had known since 2006 of the potential cardiac dangers. No doubt Taser International issued this list in anticipation of the Turner case coming to trial. Now when citizens are injured or die after being tased by police, the product liability belongs to law enforcement and its employers, and not where it should lie- with the manufacturer.

The Turner family was awarded the $10-million, because of Taser International's FAILURE TO WARN. Police would be well advised to read the publically-avaliable judgement in detail. As a matter of course, Taser is appealing. It is one of dozens of company-crippling wrongful death lawsuits lined up against the company. What other choice does Taser International actually have when facing such steep multi-million dollar losses? They either settle for undisclosed amounts or they appeal. It is the same thing the company is doing by counter-suing this now crippled cop, whose doctors say his back was broken from the force of a Taser shock during training. One can hear Taser's lawyers now -- perhaps the officer had a pre-existing condition of osteoporosis, which is responsible for the injuries - but not the Taser? And for God's sake, why didn't the officer read the latest waiver before he signed it, where the risks of injury and death are plainly but finely printed for all to see?

In Montpelier, Vermont, officials there appear to be aware of the rising liability risks. A prescient City Manager and a sensible Police Chief have decided that arming their officers was NOT worth losing the trust of their citizens. Was it wisened worry of the possiblity of paying out huge damages if there was any proven police misuse? And misuse is bound to happen when many officers are still convinced Tasers are "safe to use on any attacker", as the company's early promotional material stated. Much of this same propaganda made its way into the first police evaluations of the higher 26-watt technology a decade ago- and was treated as truth.

Perhaps some police were knowing collaborators, but I'd like to think most were hapless victims. So many took it: Taser hook-Taser line-and-suspect sinker. The first clue should have been the skimpy science of testing of one pig in 1996, five dogs in 1999 and several hundred young police recruits who were given half-second zaps with taped leads rather than darts with the full five second stun. Sadly law enforcement brass never bothered to verify the manufacturer's safety claims or questioned the electrical theory of operation, when Taser made the drastic leap from 5-watt weapons to 26-watt ones. Now after 700 deaths, Taser International states in the fine print of its manuals and waivers, that police are responsible for their own research! What kind of upside-down Bizarro-World are we living in, where a device that allows dangerously high current to enter the human body and is associated with hundreds of deaths, expects its customers do its own research? The pharmaceutical companies wouldn't dare do that, so why is Taser getting a free pass?

Perhaps Taser International will be brought to its senses, or at least brought back into court when its shareholders launch another class action suit for failure to disclose all known safety risks? A dozen complainants shared a $21-million dollar out-of-court settlement in 2005, to buy the silence of this small group of compassionate shareholders . In the court documents of this case, seven former employees signed affadavits and testified there were so many 'returns' - defective units being sent back - because thousands of Tasers weren't operating properly or not at all, triggers were sticking with some staying on, etc. There were SO many returns they had to rent extra warehouse space to store them all. The witnesses claimed the bodies of these returns were cut open, the defective high-voltage boards were taken out and placed into new bodies with new serial numbers - and sold out the front door as new product.

No one has ever attempted to investigate Taser for any of this, because no one in law enforcement or the Justice department is paying attention or cares to. Taser called the accusations absurd but settled with the shareholders anyway; what is absurd is paying out $21-million dollars to a dozen complainants in what has to be one of the highest nuisance suit payouts in legal history.

Given the number of deaths and injuries, one wonders if any of these defective units being re-sold as 'new' were recycled into other police departments, where some of these 700 "unintended consequences" or dozens of "training injuries" occurred? There is no way of knowing for sure, because police do not measure the output of each Taser upon receipt from the company. SO there is no benchmark for product quality or reliability set from the start. There is no way of charting degradation over time. Which means there is no way of knowing the shelf life of Tasers. How will that be determined without proper measurement?

Since Taser International has shouldered the liability risks onto police- and those who employ them- municipalities, provinces, states, and federal bodies should consider the sense of seeing these untested, unregulated weapons measured regularly. That was one of the recommendations of the Braidwood Inquiry. So far no police agencies anywhere in North America have heeded this sage advice. The RCMP has supposedly tested its fleet of 36-hundred or so BUT many of them performed outside of the safety allowables set by Taser International. But what is the peak output/body current of the Tasers involved in the 700 deaths? Who knows? Again- there are just too many unanswered questions.

A proper Justice Department investigation of how all this occurred without proper checks & balances, is needed. The many questions demand answers. There needs to be accountability for the 700 and their families. Congressional hearings might be the only way to illuminate more of the truth about how Tasers were introduced without proper oversight and substantiated by rigorous, independent research. If we're stuck with the lethal Taser, it really should only be used in the rarest of circumstances, just below the firearm, NOT as a mere compliance tool. Regular measurement using a recognized electrical safety standard would go a long way too, in insuring this Russian Roulette-style of law enforcement is kept to a duller roar.

Concerned Canuck.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Response to Cassandra

Letter to the Editor of Blue Line magazine, May 2011
Dr. Mike Webster, Police Psychologist

I read Sgt. Fawcett’s article in the May 2011 issue of Blue Line with great interest. I thought his use of the “reverse-Cassandra effect” (i.e. speaking falsehoods and being believed) was clever but somewhat indiscriminately applied in this case. In his article Sgt. Fawcett implies that all (police related) research is good research simply because it exists. With respect, I think Sgt. Fawcett may be guilty of another form of cognitive distortion – overgeneralization.

While it is certainly true that the majority of the work he cited is reputable research, it is not the case for some topics mentioned in his piece. For example, it is universally accepted by those trained to distinguish between reputable and questionable research that the TASER’s health and safety effects have never been subjected to rigorous, independent, and impartial research. It is true that a plethora of research on the weapon exists, and has been completed by an army of M.D.s and Ph.D.s, but it lacks scientific rigour and has been termed “junk science”.

It is never a good sign (or good for business) when a manufacturer contradicts its earlier “scientifically proven” claims. Taser International recently (2010.05.01) issued a new training manual for the X26 TASER. It includes a long list of alarming risks and warnings which constitute an “about face” on original claims based upon their research. Here are only a few of these warnings. The company now cautions that the weapon “has not been scientifically tested on pregnant women, the infirm, the elderly, small children, and low body mass persons” . . . and . . . “the use on these individuals could increase the risk of death or serious injury”. The company goes on to admit “that the TASER can produce physiologic or metabolic effects, which include changes in: acidosis, adrenergic states, blood pressure . . . heart rate and rhythm . . .”. With this statement Taser International directly disputes its own previous research findings and confirms what critics of that research have said for over a decade. Finally, Taser International appears to “throw in the towel” as they abdicate responsibility for their own weapon in the statement recommending that “all TASER . . . users conduct their own research, analysis, and evaluation”. So are we to think anyone who is critical of Taser International’s sloppy research is speaking a falsehood?

With regard to the controversial topic of excited delirium, Sgt. Fawcett implies that it has been the subject of “scientifically sound” research. In fact, it is not something that scientists can study in a controlled (scientifically sound) environment. Moreover, his assertion that there exists “documented descriptions of excited delirium in research dating back to the 1800’s,” is similar to saying that there are documented descriptions of the Yeti (abominable snowman) in research dating back to the same time period; and we are all aware of how those descriptions have failed to increase the credibility of the creature in the minds of the scientific community.

The term excited delirium was contemporarily applied by medical researchers to describe (not diagnose) the extreme end of a continuum of drug abuse behaviours such as “cocaine-induced excited delirium”. Neurologist Deborah Mash’s research on brain biomarkers for the identification of excited delirium seems to support the use of the term as a descriptor of cocaine induced behaviour and its association with cocaine toxicity; not as a diagnosis or its general application to all erratic behaviour.

The agitated and deranged behaviours termed excited delirium and observed by a police person in the community are essentially indistinguishable from those present in agitated schizophrenia, agitated hyper-mania, agitated dementia, true delirium, or a cocaine induced rant; there is nothing to differentiate these conditions, one from the other, save a full medical/psychiatric workup.

Most concerning was Sgt. Fawcett’s implication that because of equivalent early research results the concerns with prone restraint had been discredited. He and I were witnesses at the same Commission of Inquiries where a long line of distinguished medical experts, citing recent research, cautioned against the impairment of respiration as it is associated with prone restraint. Even the Canadian Police Research Centre in 2005 emphasized that respiratory impairment becomes particularly crucial when restraint is applied during or after a prolonged physical struggle. It is uncontroversial that acidosis is cleared primarily by the lungs; therefore during or after a prolonged struggle the body’s natural response is to hyperventilate. However, hyperventilation can be impeded if a subject is lying face down (prone). In this position, prone restraint becomes an obstacle to the subject’s attempts to clear acidosis, thus increasing the risk for cardiac arrhythmias.

So to conclude, are we to understand that when anyone wishes to question or criticize police actions, or methods, they will be viewed as part of the “reverse-Cassandra cry”? Does Sgt. Fawcett really believe that all those who criticize the police are anti-police? Is it not possible that those who are critical of police actions, or methods, also love their communities (and police services) and want the best for them both? And when Sgt. Fawcett muses, “one wonders when there will ever be enough research done to satisfy the critics”, does this reflect an understanding of the scientific method and its place in society? Or when he asserts that, “Credible police trainers stay current with research in a variety of fields . . .” how much faith can we have in his assertion after reading his article? Most importantly, does the tone of his article bring law enforcement any closer to the community it serves, or does it do more to feed the “us versus them” mentality?

Black Friday

This just tweeted by yours truly: Connecticut @southingtonpd police #taser man after he cuts in front of the line @walmart #blackfriday indeed!!

You can read it and weep here: Police: Taser used on man who cut line at Southington Wal-Mart

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Letter from a Concerned Canuck

In response to this November 21st report: Caught on tape: Officers using tasers I received the following letter to FOX 8 Cleveland from "Concerned Canuck":

FORCED to use Tasers? The police choose to use the weapons when and how they do. In your edited examples, you showed unarmed, non-combative citizens being repeatedly shocked with a weapon the U-S Courts have decided is "deadly". One man was even hand-cuffed.

I write to you as a concerned Canadian citizen who has examined this issue extensively for many years. Please check the recent ninth circuit court decision in North Carolina, where the judges unanimously agreed Tasers are, by legal definition, "Deadly Weapons". Should police be using such a weapon on a handcuffed or unarmed suspect?

And now the manufacturer of this 'non-lethal police tool' has itself admitted its devices can cause dangerous metabolic and cardiac changes, which can lead to death, especially among vulnerable populations. It warns police not to use multiple or prolonged stuns. It warns police to avoid chest shots.

If you check the fine print of the latest training manual for the X26 model you'll discover, like I did, that there is a very long list of risks and warnings that was not there a decade ago, when police first purchased Tasers. The company said then that their devices were "safe to use on any assailant". That is not what they are saying now.

Has human physiology changed in ten years? Has the technology changed? NO-the only change seems to be the manufacturer's opinion of its own products. This admittance in the waiver should be all you need to see --to tell you the truth -- that Tasers were deployed prematurely without enough scientific scrutiny by any government on either side of our shared border —and now the legal responsibility is being thrown over to law enforcement. Police failed us too, with a lack of due diligence, because they never verified the initial safety claims made by Taser International.

Also of great concern is the fact that these electrical devices are not measured regularly in any police detachments across North America. This is -- ahem-- shocking, when you consider that according to Truth-Not-Tasers.Com, which has kept a death toll based on media accounts, 700 citizens have died after being 'tased', including a Tuscon police officer last week. Officer Fung was a healthy man who suffered a massive heart attack, a day after being 'tased' in a training exercise. I wonder if he bothered to read the fine print of the waiver? Did he sign it? And will his cop buddies agree so readily to being 'tased'?

A few other things your reporter might like to dig into -- shocks between 30 to 100 milliamps can kill. Yet Tasers have peak outputs of 151 to 162 milliamps. Don't be fooled by Taser's use of 'averages', as the danger is in the peaks. And despite taser's assurances that the there is consistent current being emitted, our national public broadcaster, the CBC, proved there is 'output variance'. They found in a random test, using Taser's own test protocol, that 12-percent of the weapons performed above the safety allowables set by the company.

Neither the UL, IEC or CSA have ever measured the Taser, nor would they, they say, because one of the modes of use of the weapon utilizes invasive probes which emit current INTO the body, where resistance is next to nil. Check with the UL -- they will tell you there is no electrical safety standard yet developed for internal shocks, just external shocks, where skin resistance provides a barrier.

The lack of safety standards for non-lethal technologies is why NIST - the National Institute of Standards & Technology - is working with other scientists to develop a proper measurement protocol. But there will have to be TWO TEST PROTOCOLS for the TWO MODES OF USE: drive stun and the more dangerous dart/probe mode.

It took a major Public Inquiry in British Columbia to do it, but Canadian police have raised the Taser in the use-of-force continuum, to just below the firearm, only to be used as a last resort, in truly violent, life-threatening situations. Americans have to decide too — is it okay for police to continue to use the taser so cavalierly? Lakewood’s police chief told you this is exactly what the taser is for, “allowing us to have somebody compliant … without actually having to put hands on, wrestle or fight with them.” Should a deadly weapon be used to gain compliance? There have been too many "unintended consequences", but deaths will continue if police use the Taser the way they have.

Concerned Canuck

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An embarrassing anniversary arrives for a broken RCMP complaint system

November 21, 2011
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association

An embarrassing anniversary arrives for a broken RCMP complaint system

November 23 is the second anniversary of B.C.’s Solicitor General filing a complaint with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (“CPC”) in relation to the 2003 death of Clayton Alvin Willey. At the time of the complaint, the Solicitor General called the investigation into the details of Willey’s death a matter of “confidence in the RCMP.” Two years later, the investigation by the CPC has not been completed.

The CPC is the same organization recently asked to conduct a multi-year investigation of sexual harassment complaints by female RCMP police and civilian staff.

“Ensuring standards of performance are met on complaints is a concern for all British Columbians. It should be a concern of the RCMP as well,” said Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA. “It is imperative that the Solicitor General ensure that the RCMP and CPC agree to appropriate performance measures if BC is to enter into a new contract. It shouldn’t take two years to respond to complaints. If the CPC and RCMP are going to allow multi-year delays in complaint investigations, they’re effectively thumbing their noses at those they’re supposed to serve.”

Clayton Alvin Willey died shortly after being removed from the Prince George RCMP detachment by ambulance. He had been Tasered multiple times while hog tied, and had been dragged while hog tied from the back of an RCMP SUV and allowed to drop, full weight, on his head and chest, fracturing his skull and ribs. RCMP video showed Mr. Willey being dragged through the RCMP detachment and receiving multiple Taser applications. The 2003 case rose to prominence again in 2009 when the BCCLA and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs publicly released details contained on an RCMP surveillance video of the death and called for the release of the video.

“Clayton Alvin Willey’s death is a black mark on the record of service of the RCMP in BC,” noted Holmes. “We want timely investigations and prompt accountability for any who failed to live up to the standards the RCMP is supposed to live by. Instead, we are left knowing that another season’s ice is forming on the Ottawa River and that eight years after Mr. Willey died in 2003, we still have no answers from the force or the Complaints Commissioner whose job it is to uphold the public’s trust.”

Man dies in North Carolina after police taser him for failing to stop riding his bicycle

November 23, 2011
WITN, North Carolina

The State Bureau of Investigation is now looking into the death of a Halifax County man after he was hit with a stun gun. Police say Roger Anthony, 61, was riding his bike along a road in Scotland Neck Monday night when he was ordered by an officer to stop.

Officers had received a call about a man on a bike who fell and may have been drunk.

When Anthony failed to respond to the officer, the policeman shocked Anthony with a stun gun and he fell off his bike. Anthony's family says the disabled man, who suffered from seizures and had trouble hearing, was declared brain dead at Pitt County Memorial Hospital. He died after being taken off life support.

The mayor of Scotland Neck called for North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation to look into what happened. He says Anthony did not pose a threat.

Wednesday morning an SBI spokeswoman told WITN News they were asked by Scotland Neck police and the district attorney to investigate the death.

The officer involved, who has only been on the force for a month, has been placed on desk duty.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Canadian condolences to the family of Tucson PD officer Henry Fung who died of an apparent heart attack on Tuesday this week, one day after he reportedly "volunteered" to take a taser jolt on Monday for "training" purposes.

The medical examiner must STRONGLY recommend that the taser(s) used on Henry Fung be measured for 'output variance'. As we have learned in Canada, not all tasers perform the same way. Many have tested way outside the safety allowables set by Taser International. The medical examiner (and all the doctors in the world) CANNOT rule out the taser until the shock from the weapon itself has been definitively ruled out. Proper measurement is required.

On CBS News last week, Taser International said that proving the taser did NOT play a role in a person's death is an UNPROVABLE supposition. There's your starting point. Click here: http://bit.ly/tT8iYq

It's notable that no one has reported the duration and number of stuns Officer Fung recieved. Usually when a citizen dies after being shocked by a Taser, he or she is blamed, because they had so-called "excited delirium", were on drugs or had a previous medical history (doesn't everyone have a previous medical history??).

Taser International has been warning about multiple and prolonged stuns only in recent years even though, at the beginning, they told police, policy-makers and the public that the taser was "safe to use on any assailant".

That is NOT what they're saying now. One must wonder if Officer Fung was given an opportunity to read the fine print of the latest Volunteer Waiver Taser International put out.

Read closely and it is ALL there: Tasers CAN CAUSE dangerous and deadly metabolic and cardiac changes. Several "suspects" have died MANY HOURS after taser shocks because of changes brought on by acidosis, which causes the muscles surrounding the heart to fail.

The city of Tucson cannot accept the "averages" Taser International spouts -- according to the original spec sheets, the true PEAK OUTPUT of Tasers varies between 151 and 162 milliamps, when "working properly". Any first year med student can tell you that shocks between 30 to 100 milliamps can KILL. Add to that, the invasive nature of a taser used in 'probe mode' - resistance under the skin is next to NIL.

And another shocking revelation: there are NO electrical safety standards for shocks UNDER the skin. Check with the Underwriters Laboratory, the IEC or Canadian Standards Association and you will quickly confirm this fact.

Taser International has some SERIOUS explaining to do. And you can be sure that their damage control machine is in full swing. I follow the company on TWITTER and they are a company which normally posts several TWEETS per day. They've been ominously silent since the day police officer Henry Fung died.

The Department of Justice ought to investigate how this technology was approved without enough rigorous science being applied.

One pig in 1996 and five dogs in 1999 and no true human trials until years after initial sales, should be alarming to all citizens.

Montpelier Police Chief withdraws request for tasers

November 18, 2011
Times Argus

Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos has withdrawn his request that officers be allowed to carry Tasers, and asked that the issue be dropped from further consideration, according to City Manager William Fraser.

"Chief Facos and I continue to believe that tasers could be an important and appropriate tool for the safety of our police officers and citizens. The City Council has been working very hard to find a balance between concerns about the devices and concerns about officer safety. Their sincere dilemma is indicative of the division within the community about this issue. Despite our opinions about tasers, the Chief and I both feel that a positive and productive relationship between the Police Department and our citizens is far more important," Fraser said in a press release.

Mayor Mary Hooper has agreed with the request, the press release says, and the issue will be discontinued

Cop sues Taser after riding the lighting

See also Taser shreds injury reports

November 18, 2011

Andy Butler, a Dallas police officer, filed a lawsuit against Taser International after being willingly zapped with over 50,000 volts of electricity during a Dallas Police Department training session.

The “ride,” which being tasered is often referred to, is what Butler blames for fracturing his back and leaving two metal plates in his neck.
For Butler it has been a “ride” he will never forget.

"I don't think any responsible person would have made that decision, knowing what I know now," Butler tells KDAF.

The 2009 incident required Butler to have surgery to repair three herniated discs in his neck, where one was forcing pressure on his spinal cord. Apparently Butler’s back muscles constricted so tight with the jolt that it crushed his vertebrae.

Butler, now under constant pain, has become a part of a rising number of law enforcement officers across America who are suing Taser International. According to the lawsuits, Taser has fallen short of effectively warning officers and their departments about the dangers of being tasered.

"Taser has known since 2004 that every time an officer is tasered, he is at risk of serious injury or even death," Butler's attorney, Mark Haney, tells KDAF.

Although Dallas PD does not require cops to be tasered, some in law enforcement say its all but a necessity.

"It seemed like a rite of passage, that everybody had to do it," Butler said. Butler admitted that peer pressure also played a significant role in experiencing “five seconds of pure pain.”

Butler adds the waiver he signed from Taser alluded to possible "physical exertion or athletic-type injuries” but failed to mention anything of this magnitude.

“They hint around about it, but they don't just come out and say that 20-40 officers have been injured and these are the kinds of risks you pose, if the department allows officers to be tasered," Butler’s attorney tells reporters.

Now the stun gun maker is counter-suing Butler, claiming he should have known the risks.

In a recent deposition for Butler's lawsuit, the CEO of Taser, Rick Smith, testified that instruction manuals disclose that ten officers have been injured while in Taser training. Smith admitted in his testimony that Taser never made an attempt to have the department put an end to Tasering its officers in training.

According to Taser's website, over 559,000 devices have been sold to more than 16,000 law enforcement and military agencies.

"That is a weapon we use on the public. If we think it is unsafe and harms officers, then I couldn't reasonably deploy those weapons against the public," says Deputy Chief Floyd Simpson, who is the head of the department's policy on Taser training.

Taser still stands by their products and credit the device for saving countless lives by providing police with a nonlethal option when dealing with uncontrollable criminals.

“I’m not saying there’s not a place in the law enforcement for a less-than-lethal option. I think a Taser is better than a 9 mm every time. But police officers need to understand these consequences and limit the risks in training,” Haney adds.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sudden death of Tucson officer shock to family, friends

November 17, 2011

Officer Henry Fung seemed like a perfectly healthy 43-year-old Tucson officer until he collapsed on Tuesday afternoon while visiting his mother at an assisted living facility. He passed away on Wednesday.

"I'm very surprised. He does Taekwondo, kickboxing and works out all the time. It's shocking that he would suffer from a massive heart attack" said his brother John. "He loved his life, especially his wife, her three girls and his son Brandon who is five months old. He also loved being a police officer".

Officer Fung began his career with Tucson Police as a crime scene specialist in 2005. From there, he became a sworn officer working the downtown division.

On Fung's Facebook page on Monday, he wrote about being tased for police training that day and how intense the experience was. 9 On Your Side wanted to know if his death is connected to the taser training?

"In subsequent conversations we had with his attending physicians and cardiologists, that had no bearing on what the eventual outcome was" said Assistant Police Chief, Brett Kline. The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office also confirms that the taser incident has no relation to Fung's death and that Fung may have suffered from some sort of heart condition which led to the attack.

Sgt. John Strader from the Tucson Police Officer's Association told KGUN 9 "He's someone who cared a great deal about his co-workers and his community. Everyone agrees that Officer Fung was always smiling".

The officer's brother says that Henry Fung loved being a father, especially to his son who was born this past Father's Day. "It's so sad that he won't get to see his father or grow up with him".

What will John Fung tell his nephew about his father? "That he was a loving family man, courageous and accomplished his goals by doing what he wanted to do".

Friends have set up a bank account to help the Fung family. If you would like to donate, the account is at Wells Fargo Bank under the name: Blossom Fung.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Taser International's Volunteer Warnings, Risks, Liability Release and Covenant Not to Sue

Tucson PD officer Henry Fung reportedly volunteered to be tasered on Monday as part of his training.  On Tuesday, sadly, Officer Fung died of a fatal heart attack.  Before being tasered on Monday, he would have (likely) been made to sign the following Taser International waiver.  To see the waiver in its entirety, please go to Taser International's site:  http://www.taser.com/images/training/training-resources/downloads/11-5-31%20volunteer%20exposure%20release%20001.pdf

Volunteer Warnings, Risks, Liability Release and Covenant Not to Sue

PRIOR to any TASER ECD Exposure, all volunteers MUST: (1) read the most current TASER ECD warnings; and (2) read and sign this form.
Please fill out the sections below. If you have a condition or pre-existing injury that would be aggravated by muscle contractions, physical exertion, or stress check the appropriate box and notify the Instructor prior to participating in the TASER ECD Exposure.

I have no injuries, physical or mental conditions that could be aggravated by muscle contractions, physical exertion, stress, or exposure to the electrical discharge of TASER ECDs.

I have the following pre-existing physical or mental conditions/injuries that could be aggravated by the TASER ECD Exposure: _________________________________

I freely and voluntarily agree to be exposed to the electrical discharge of the TASER ECD under the following conditions: _____________________________

In consideration of receiving information on the TASER products and a TASER ECD Exposure, I acknowledge and agree as follows:

1. I understand that a TASER ECD Exposure results in strong muscle contractions, physical exertion, and stress and involves the risk of physical or other injury. I acknowledge that I have read the above Warnings and Risks and current TASER ECD warnings and with full knowledge of such risks, I voluntarily agree to experience a TASER ECD Exposure and I assume all risks, whether known or unknown, foreseen or unforeseen, inherent in the TASER ECD Exposure.

2. Intending that this form be legally binding upon me, my heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, I hereby waive, release, and forever discharge the instructor, the TASER distributor, my agency and employer, TASER and all of its agents, directors and employees of and from any and all claims, demands, rights and causes of action of whatsoever kind and nature, arising from, and by reason of any and all known and unknown physical and mental injuries and consequences thereof, whether foreseen or unforeseen, suffered by me from any TASER ECD Exposure. I specifically waive any statutory rights I may have regarding the release of known or unknown claims.

3. I further agree that neither I nor my heirs, estate, personal representative, nor any other person or entity will ever institute any action, litigation or suit at law or in equity against the instructor, the TASER distributor, my agency and employer, TASER and all of its agents, directors and employees for any damages, costs, loss or injury arising out of any and all activities related to and including any TASER ECD Exposure.

4. I further agree to indemnify and save harmless the instructor, the TASER distributor, my agency and employer, TASER and all of its agents, directors and employees from all liability, loss, costs and obligation of any and every kind on account of or arising out of any injuries or losses incurred by me, however occurring, arising out of any and all activities related to and including any TASER ECD Exposure.

5. In signing this form, I agree that I have read and understand this entire form; I affirm that I am competent to agree to, sign, and be bound by this form; I understand that it is a promise not to sue and a release and indemnity for all claims; I further understand that by signing this form I am giving up certain legal rights including the right to recover damages in case of injury; and I agree to abide by the terms and conditions of this form.

6. This release does not release any rights I may have under Workers’ Compensation Laws. I waive any Workers’ Compensation subrogation rights against TASER. I agree that any recoveries under Workers’ Compensation Laws do not change, extend or enlarge the waivers and protections inherent in this agreement.

Tuscon PD officer, 43, dies of heart attack 1 day after being tased

As far as I know, Henry Fung is the first police officer to die after being tasered. Many have been seriously injured, but this is the first police officer (that I'm aware of) who has died. He volunteered to take a taser shot during training on Monday, died of a heart attack on Tuesday.  Officer Fung becomes the 699th person to die in North America after being tasered.

TUCSON - A six-year veteran of the Tucson Police Department in his 40's died of a heart attack yesterday - TPD says he was tased during training Monday, but multiple doctors say that did not contribute to his death.

Henry Fung, 43, died after a heart attack while off-duty yesterday, Tucson Police officials confirmed to News 4 Tucson. They say he volunteered to be shot with a TASER during training on Monday.

TPD officials also say that multiple physicians at local area hospitals confirmed to them that the TASER did not contribute to his death

California man dies

November 15, 2011: Jonathan White, 29, San Bernardino, California

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lawyers can’t vet officers’ notes in SIU cases, Ontario Court of Appeal rules

November 15, 2011
Tracey Tyler, Toronto Star

Police officers involved in fatal shootings and other serious incidents are not permitted to have a lawyer vet or help prepare their notes before they’re turned over to the Special Investigations Unit, the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled.

In a 3-0 decision Tuesday, the court said allowing lawyers into the process to shape and refine the finished product would defeat “the fundamental nature and purpose of a police officer’s notes” – to provide an independent and contemporaneous recollection of what happened.

“An officer eager to have … a legally valid explanation for his or her own conduct would naturally emphasize and present the facts in accordance with the lawyer’s advice,” said Justice Robert Sharpe, who wrote the judgment.

There’s nothing to prevent an officer immersed in the “stressful” aftermath of a police shooting from getting some basic legal advice about their rights and duties, such as whether they are required to answer questions from SIU investigators, Sharpe said.

But officers must complete their notes before the end of their shift and can’t delay for the purposes of getting advice from a lawyer, he said on behalf of a panel that included Justices Robert Armstrong and Paul Rouleau.

The decision is a victory for the families of Douglas Minty, 59, and Levi Schaeffer, 32, two mentally ill men shot dead by the Ontario Provincial Police two days apart in June 2009.

Their families were shocked by some of the practices employed by officers during investigations by the SIU, the independent civilian agency set up to investigate when police are involved in cases involving death, serious injury or sexual assault.

They’ve also been a concern to SIU director Ian Scott, who has complained such practices frustrate the agency’s investigations.

“This judgment is a huge step forward in the battle against police manipulation of SIU investigations,” said Julian Falconer, a lawyer representing the families.

At a hearing earlier this year, the appeal court was told it is common for officers involved in SIU investigations to prepare double sets of notes, one to be vetted by their lawyer and a second for public consumption.

The court was also told that in a Hamilton Police Association newsletter in 2009, a Toronto lawyer who frequently represents officers, recommended anyone involved in an SIU investigation be vague about how many times they fired their gun.

The lawyer also offered an example of how an officer might logically explain such an incident.

“The obvious needs to be said again and again,” he wrote. “He pointed the firearm at me and, fearing for my life and the life and safety of my fellow officers and members of the public, I fired at him several times.”

About five hours after Schaeffer was killed during an investigation into a boat theft at Pickle Lake, the officer who fired the fatal shot consulted his lawyer, Andrew McKay, who asked him to prepare notes for him to review.

The officer, Constable Kris Wood, later wrote in his notebook that Wood advised him that his notes “were excellent and to complete his notebook.”

The families sued, asking a judge to rule on whether the note-vetting custom and other practices followed by officers in the course of SIU investigations were authorized under the Police Services Act.

The officers and the Commissioner of the OPP argued the families had no standing to bring that question before a court as a matter of public interest. They also argued the family’s concerns had become moot as a result of recent amendments to rules governing SIU investigations.

The appeal panel disagreed.

The court awarded the families $100,000 in legal costs, to be paid by police respondents.

Connecticut man dies

November 13, 2011: Ronald Cristiano, 51, Bridgeport, Connecticut

Friday, November 11, 2011

Taser use increases, questions arise

November 10, 2011
CBS News

A National Institute of Justice study concludes some police are going to their tasers to subdue suspects "way too fast," causing unnecessary pain and, in some cases, death. Correspondent David Martin takes a look at the hottest new tool in the police officer's belt that is now being used by 16,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. Martin's report will be broadcast on "60 Minutes" Sunday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Geoffrey Alpert, professor at the University South Carolina's Criminology and Criminal Justice Department, wrote the study. He says the infamous incident of the "Don't tase me bro" Florida college student is the perfect example of a taser-happy police officer. "If those officers couldn't control him without using a taser, they need to be retrained...to be disciplined," he tells Martin. "Some are using them way too fast."

In another incident, also caught on videotape like the Florida student's, a disgruntled employee of a supermarket died after being hit with a taser - an extremely rare occurrence. In this case, however, the police officer can be seen on the videotape with his taser drawn before he even encounters the suspect. A jury awarded the man's family $10 million in a case TASER International is appealing.

The Las Vegas Police Department was among the first to employ the taser. Officers there used the weapon twice as much in 2004 as they do now. Marcus Martin, the department's taser trainer, agrees that officers may have used their taser too quickly early on. "But that's the same with any tool that comes along...we have to go back and train that out of those officers," says Marcus, who has full faith in the taser. "It's changed the face of police work forever."

Approximately 500,000 officers in the U.S. carry a taser. Nearly one and a half million suspects have been tased by authorities and of that amount, 485 have died afterwards. But TASER International claims that only 20 of those could be argued to have been caused directly by the weapon; the rest were linked to other causes, like cocaine intoxication, the company says.

Since tasers came into use, the number of suspects brought to the hospital after their arrest has been down each year. Fewer officers are injured making arrests also. Says Marcus, "The truth...this person is alive today and that person is alive today or this police officer is not harmed today, because of this less-than-lethal device."

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Court of Appeals rules stun guns are deadly weapons

November 02, 2011
Beaufort Observer

Is a stun gun a dangerous weapon capable of inflicting deadly force? That is a question we have raised here on several occasions and suggested that they should be treated as deadly weapons.

Yesterday (11-1-11) the N.C. Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, agreed with our reasoning.

In the case of the State v. Riveria the court ruled that a stun gun (an X26 Taser) "is a dangerous weapon that endangered or threatened Scott's (victim) life." You can read the actual decision by clicking here.

Briefly, the case resulted at a robbery at a Raleigh Wal-mart. Victim Scott was robbed by two men who tried to grab a cash box as Scott replenished an ATM machine in the store. When she resisted one man's attempt to siege the cash box. While she struggled a second man shocked her with a stun gun. She fell to the floor, and evidence showed she suffered serious injury (requiring surgery for a dislocated shoulder and other injuries).

The two robbers were apprehended and charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon. At the end of state's evidence the defendants moved for dismissal of the charge, contending that a stun gun is not a dangerous weapon. The trial court rejected the motion. The COA upheld that ruling.

The COA said:
The elements of robbery with a dangerous weapon are: (1) the unlawful taking or an attempt to take personal property from the person or in the presence of another; (2) by use or threatened use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon; (3) whereby the life of a person is endangered or threatened. N.C. authority cited in support of his argument, pertains to denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the charged offense. Gen. Stat. § 14-87 (2009); State v. Small, 328 N.C. 175, 181, 400 S.E.2d 413, 416 (1991). "The element of danger or threat to the life of the victim is the essence of the offense." State v. Gibbons, 303 N.C. 484, 489, 279 S.E.2d 574, 578 (1981). The dispositive issue in this case is whether there was sufficient evidence presented at trial to establish that the stun gun was a dangerous weapon that endangered or threatened Scott's life.
The facts in the case indicated that Scott suffered serious injury, but the defendants argued that it did not threaten her life so the third element of the offense was not proven by the evidence. The COA disagreed, saying
[t]he use of a dangerous weapon need not result in death, but the instrument itself must merely be capable of taking life in the manner that it was used. . . . [A]ny instrument capable of causing serious bodily injury could also cause death depending on its use. In our view, serious bodily injury is synonymous with endangering or threatening life.

We hold that due to the actual effect of the stun gun in this case — serious injury — a permissive inference existed sufficient to support a jury determination that the stun gun was a dangerous weapon.

An irony in this case is that it defines the characterization of stun guns as a dangerous weapon, capable of inflicting deadly force (depending on its actual use) in relation to a criminal using the stun gun. But the same principles of law apply to a law enforcement officer's use of a stun gun in affecting an arrest.

Officers are permitted to use reasonable force to subdue a subject. But a long series of cases has held that officers may not use deadly force unless it is necessary to remove an imminent danger. In other words, officers may use force in making an arrest, as long as the arrest itself is legal, but they may not use more force (excessive) than is necessary to accomplish a legitimate purpose.

Some officers have not considered stun guns to be dangerous weapons. In fact, an expert witness testified to that effect at trial in this case. The COA disagreed with that conclusion, holding that stun guns fall at the same end of the continuum of force that firearms do.

We think this is a common sense decision by the court. Now, if law enforcement agencies apply the same common sense to their policies and procedures we think the outcome will be a good one for the public interest.

Clearly stun guns are dangerous weapons, whether used by a criminal or an law enforcement officer. They should be treated as such. And whether they actually cause death is not the issue. They are capable of such, as has been shown by numerous cases over the last few years. There is a link in this article to examples of this fact.

We believe stun guns are essential and entirely appropriate tools for law enforcement to use. But as this case shows, they should be treated essentially the same as a firearm in determining their actual use in a particular instance.

Spokane Policeman Convicted in Civil Rights Trial of Killing Unarmed Man

November 3, 2011
Joel Rosenblatt, Bloomberg

A Spokane, Washington, police officer whose March 2006 beating of an unarmed man led to his death was convicted of civil rights and obstruction charges.

Karl F. Thompson Jr., 64, used a Taser on Otto Zehm, 36, and beat him with baton blows to the head, neck and body, the U.S. Department of Justice said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. Zehm was hogtied, stopped breathing, and was taken to the hospital, where he died two days later, according to the government.

Thompson was “given considerable power to enforce the law, but instead he abused his authority when he brutally beat an innocent man,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in the statement. The Spokane police officer faces as many as 30 years in prison.

Video at trial showed Zehm shopping at a convenience store, and witnesses testified he appeared to be unaware of Thompson charging with his baton raised, according to the statement. Though Zehm never returned to his feet after the initial blows, Thompson continued beating him, including a final flurry of seven baton strikes in eight seconds captured by security cameras, according to the statement.

Carl Oreskovich, a lawyer representing Thompson, didn’t immediately return a call after business hours yesterday seeking comment. Thompson claimed the beating was justified because he felt threatened by a plastic bottle of soda the victim was holding, the Justice Department said.
Thompson went to the store after two teenagers reported a man standing near them at a teller machine leaving with something that looked like money after they canceled their transaction, according to the statement. Police dispatchers made clear that the teenagers weren’t sure if the man had their money, according to the statement.

In a report Thompson gave after Zehm died, Thompson denied hitting the victim in the head with his baton, according to the statement.

The case is U.S. v. Thompson, 09-cr-00088, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington (Spokane).

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

ACLU responds to I-Team's Taser investigation

October 28, 2011
Robyn Tyndall, wcpo.com i-team

CINCINNATI - The A.C.L.U. is weighing in on the delays in the investigation into the death of U.C. Upward Bound student Everette Howard.

Howard died nearly three months ago shortly after he was tased by a U.C. police officer.

Over the last two weeks the I-Team has revealed concerns over the safety of the weapons and controversy surrounding the testing of those weapons.

We spoke with the A.C.L.U.'s general counsel Scott Greenwood.

He says it's unacceptable that the Taser used on Everette Howard has not been tested, eleven weeks after Howard died. "Within a three month period after there is a Taser proximate death we should have the toxicology on the deceased person, we should have a whole bunch of reports on the use of force. There should be significant reporting by the law enforcement agency that was involved. There should have been, depending on the jurisdiction, a criminal investigation, and the weapon itself should have been thoroughly tested both independently and by the manufacturer...all of that is possible within that timeframe."

Yet, nearly three months later, we still don't have any results and the investigation is being held up as Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigations, or B.C.I., figures out where to send that Taser.

Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine, who oversees B.C.I. told the I-Team the weapon will be sent to Canada for testing, but it's hung up in customs issues.

Greenwood, who is also a master trainer for Taser International and is considered a "use of force expert", says he believes there are plenty of alternatives to shipping the weapon to Canada. "There are about 10 or 12 in the United States that have the technical ability to test the weapons according to the manufacturers standards and they should have done that by now."

Greenwood also tells the I-Team you never want to store a Taser for an extended period of time so that none of the weapon's data is lost or damaged.

We've been asking Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to respond to these concerns. His office e-mailed us saying they have told B.C.I. "they want their report ASAP".

Can Tasers kill? I-Team asks Taser CEO tough questions

October 27, 2011
Julie O'Neill, wcpo.com i-team

CINCINNATI - The parents of Everette Howard want to know why their son is dead after being Tasered on UC's campus in August and say they don't want any other parent to have to go through what they're dealing with.

The I-Team went to the heart of the Howard investigation to try to find answers to one key question: Can Tasers kill?

The I-Team traveled to Chicago to speak one-on-one with the CEO of Taser International. We also went to Indianapolis to talk with a prominent cardiologist who's come out swinging against the company concerning its warnings.

At the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in Chicago, we caught up with Taser International CEO Rick Smith.

Smith showed us Taser's newest weapon for sale, the X-2. Smith explained to us how the X-2 precisely controls the weapon's electrical current.

"This is measuring the electrical charge of every pulse as it comes out of the device," Smith said.

Smith also says the new Taser includes an option for an automatic shutoff.

"You'll hear it for four seconds, it'll sound an alert then it will shut off, so it alerts the officer then it shuts off and they would have to re-trigger the device at that point in time," said Smith.

The safety advances of the new weapon deal directly with the safety concerns over the one used on UC Upward Bound student Everette Howard before he died in August, and used by police agencies across the Tri-State. It's also the same model weapon involved in the most damaging court ruling against Taser International to date.

This past summer, a jury awarded the family of 17-year-old Darryl Turner $10 million, ruling Taser knew its weapon could kill and didn't tell police.

Dr. Douglas Zipes is an electrophysiologist specializing in heart rhythm. He's published hundreds of articles and won numerous awards for his knowledge of clinical cardiology. The cardioverter he invented is keeping former Vice President Dick Cheney's heart ticking.

Dr. Zipes takes issue with Taser's claims that its weapons cannot cause death.

"Taser has said it can't happen with Taser equipment because the pulses are too short, the energy is insufficient and it can't capture the heart," Dr. Zipes said. "That's absolutely, totally wrong."

In March 2008, court records reveal store clerk Darryl Turner was Tasered for 37 seconds, until he fell, and soon dies. So what caused it??

Dr. Zipes says adrenalin may have already spiked Turner's heart rate, but he says the Taser spiked it beyond what it could handle.

Dr. Zipes explained that where the two Taser darts hit is key.

"So the Taser darts need to in some way span part of the heart or be close enough to the heart so that the electricity traveling between the two darts is able to reach the heart itself and capture the heart."

But that's not the only factor.

"One of the important ingredients as to why somebody dies and somebody else doesn't is the duration of the Taser shock," Dr. Zipes added.

We asked Attorney John Burton, who tried the Turner case, if he thought the officer involved in that Tasering believed Tasers could kill. Burton strongly believes he didn't.

"Oh he absolutely did not know that Tasers could kill," Burton said. "He never would have used the device in such a trivial setting had he understood what the real risks were. That's why the jury did what it did."

Taser International has appealed the Turner decision.

The I-Team asked Rick Smith whether he believes Taser was causal in that death.

"Look, we look at that case and that is one case that certainly is one we're concerned about and that's one of the reasons that we do warn, trying to avoid chest shots," Smith said.

Dr. Zipes says it's tough to prove a Taser-caused a death because a dead body doesn't show the presence of electricity.

"I stumble on why did the sudden death occur exactly when the Taser shocks were going into the body. To say that that's not causily-related I think becomes ridiculous," Zipes said.

Smith questioned Dr. Zipes' motives.

"Maybe we shouldn't talk about a plaintiff's expert that's paid $1,200 an hour to testify against the technology," Smith said.

Dr. Zipes made the following recommendations: "I would argue that Taser number 1 should fess up to the fact that it can produce cardiac arrest, number 2 that law enforcement should be educated to this possibility and that they should not use the Taser weapon in a haphazard freewheeling fashion."

The I-Team asked Smith why Taser doesn't err on the side of caution and say in rare circumstances, in the chest a prolonged shot could increase the risk, and tell departments to make sure officers know this possibility exists and be ready to take medical action.

"We absolutely do that in our training, our warnings you can download them from our website," Smith said.

But when the I-Team checked Taser's website, we found the "Summary Conclusion: Do Taser ECD's affect the heart?" states: "There is no reliable published data that proves Taser ECD's negatively affect the heart."

The I-Team also asked Smith whether he recognizes that in rare circumstances the Taser can affect the heart.

"There's no evidence that supports that it affects the heart in humans," Smith said. "There is evidence that it has happened in pigs."

Yet the I-Team found on Taser's liability release form, under "Known and Potential Side Effects," you'll see listed "heart rate, rhythm capture."

Amnesty International tracks deaths after Taserings. Their latest number: 466 deaths have followed Taserings since 2001. But Amnesty also says a number of these deaths have been attributed to other causes, and what 9 News is hearing from doctors and medical examiners is that it's hard to know definitively in a lot of these cases how much of a role the Taser may have played.

NY man dies

Washington Post

October 31, 2011: Chad Brothers, 32, Colonie, New York