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Monday, April 30, 2012

American Heart Association publishes study claiming Tasers can be cause of death

April 30, 2012
Julie O'Neill, WCPO

CINCINNATI - An article just published by the American Heart Association's premier journal, "Circulation," presents the first ever scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest and death.

The article, written by Electrophysiologist Dr. Douglas Zipes of Indiana University, is already generating a buzz among cardiologists in the Cincinnati area, according to Dr. Terri Stewart-Dehner, a cardiologist at Christ Hospital.

"Anyone in cardiology has heard of Dr. Zipes. He is very well respected," said Dr. Stewart-Dehner.
Stewart-Dehner said any article published in "Circulation" has great significance and will be taken very seriously by cardiologists around the world.

"Peer reviewed is a big deal," said Stewart-Dehner. "It means the article goes through a committee just for consideration into the journal. Then cardiologists review the validity of the research; it means it's a reputable article."

The conclusions of Dr. Zipes' article, which looks at eight cases involving the TASER X26 ECD states: "ECD stimulation can cause cardiac electric capture and provoke cardiac arrest resulting from ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation. After prolonged ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation without resuscitation, asystole develops."

To view the abstract of the article, click here or go to http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/recent.

Speaking on behalf of the American Heart Association, Dr. Michael Sayre with Ohio State Emergency Medicine, said, "Dr. Zipes' work is very well respected. It's a credible report. It's a reminder to police officers and others who are using these tools that they need to know how to do CPR and know how to use an AED."

Dr. Zipes has been discounted by the manufacturer of the Taser, Taser International, because he has been paid to testify against the weapon, but Dr. Zipes says the fact that his research has withstood the rigorous process of review by other well-respected cardiologists and was published in this prestigious journal proves his case.

"It is absolutely unequivocal based on my understanding of how electricity works on the heart, based on good animal data and based on numerous clinical situations that the Taser unquestionably can produce sudden cardiac arrest and death," said Dr. Zipes.

Dr. Zipes says he wrote the article, not to condemn the weapon, but to properly warn police officers of its potential to kill so that they can make good policies and decisions as to the proper use of the weapon, and so that they will be attentive to the possible need for medical care following a Taser stun.

The Taser, used by law enforcement agencies across the Tri-State and by some 16,000 law enforcement agencies around the world, was marketed as non-lethal. Since 2001, more than 500 people have died following Taser stuns according to Amnesty International, which said in February that stricter guidelines for its use were "imperative."

In only a few dozen of those cases have medical examiners ruled the Taser contributed to the death.
It was nearly nine months ago 18-year-old Everette Howard of North College Hill died after police used a Taser on him on the University of Cincinnati's campus.

The Hamilton County Coroner's Office has still not released a "cause of death," but the preliminary autopsy results seemed to rule out everything but the Taser. The office is now waiting for results from a heart specialist brought in to review slides of Howard's heart.

The late Coroner Anant Bhati told 9 News in an exclusive interview before he died in February that he had "great respect" for Dr. Zipes and that he too believed the Taser could cause cardiac arrest. He said he just wasn't ready to say that it caused Everette Howard's death until a heart specialist weighed in on the investigation.

Dr. Bhati also agreed with Dr. Zipes that the weapon should come under government supervision and be tested for its electrical output regularly.

Taser International has said that because the Taser uses compressed Nitrogen instead of gun powder to fire its darts, it is not regulated and testing of the weapon is not legally required.

The company also says the Taser fires two darts, which enter a subject's skin and send electricity into the body in order to incapacitate the subject so that officers can get a subject into custody without a physical fight.

Research shows the Taser has saved lives and reduced injuries among officers.

Taser International has changed its safety warnings over the years.

An I-Team report in October showed that Taser International's website stated in its summary conclusion on cardiac safety, "There is no reliable published data that proves Taser ECDs (Tasers) negatively affect the heart."

With the publication of Dr. Zipes' article, Dr. Stewart-Dehner says it can be argued that statement is no longer the case.

The new statement on Taser International's website quotes a May Department of Justice study on deaths following Taser stuns. It states, "While exposure to Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs) is not risk free, there is no conclusive medical evidence that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death from the direct effects of CED's (Tasers)."
Here is Taser International's complete response to Dr. Zipes' article:

While our medical advisors haven’t had a chance to review the details, it is noteworthy that the sole author, Dr. Douglas Zipes, has earned more than $500,000 in fees at $1,200 per hour as a plaintiff’s expert witness against TASER and police. Clearly Dr. Zipes has a strong financial bias based on his career as an expert witness, which might help explain why he disagrees with the findings of independent medical examiners with no pecuniary interest in these cases as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s independent study that concluded, "There is currently no medical evidence that CEDs pose a significant risk for induced cardiac dysrhythmia in humans when deployed reasonably" and "The risks of cardiac arrhythmias or death remain low and make CEDs more favorable than other weapons."

Steve Tuttle
Vice President of Communications

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

EIGHT (8!!) people have died since April 10th!

718. April 10, 2012: Bobby Louis Merrill III, 38, Saginaw, Michigan
719. April 13, 2012: Marland Anderson, 39, Los Angeles, California
720. April 13, 2012: Jeff Oatway, 34, Edmonton, Alberta
721. April 13, 2012: Joe Faltesek, 41, Houston, Texas
722. April 13, 2012: George Salgado, 21, Miami, Florida
723. April 21, 2012: Angel Hiraldo, 48, Meriden, Connecticut
724. April 23, 2012: Bruce Chrestensen, 52, Grass Valley, California
725. April 25, 2012: Kevin Benglan, 26, Pocatello, Idaho

California man dies

724. April 23, 2012: Bruce Chrestensen, 52, Grass Valley, California

Friday, April 20, 2012

Toronto police call for public debate/broader public discussion on arming more officers with Tasers

April 20, 2012
Natalie Alcoba, Postmedia News

TORONTO — Toronto police Chief Bill Blair is calling for a public debate about equipping officers responding to situations involving emotionally disturbed people with Tasers.

The chief made his comments following a police services board meeting Thursday in which residents, activists and people who have suffered from mental illnesses pleaded for changes to the way officers handle such incidents.

The death of Michael Eligon, who was shot by Toronto police after leaving the psychiatric ward of Toronto East General Hospital, has roused public outrage — to the point where one physician said she will now think twice about calling officers for someone in an agitated state.

Eligon, 29, was carrying two pairs of scissors at the time of the shooting in February.

"I can't say with some certainty — or any certainty — that Taser was the answer (in the Eligon case), I don't know," Blair said. "But I think it's worthwhile to have the broader public discussion about the use of conductive energy devices" or any technology that "would enable us to resolve these very difficult, very dangerous situations, as safely as possible."

Peter Cuthbert, executive director of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said he's in favour of such a debate taking place.

"The CACP would welcome the opportunity to participate in that discussion," he said.

Cuthbert declined to comment on the operational policy of a specific police force, and said the organization would have its committee debate the issue before going public with a position on the matter.

In Toronto, only tactical officers and supervisors are equipped with Tasers. Cuthbert said the policy is similar for most police forces across the country.

An investigation into the death of Eligon, who had been roaming the neighbourhood in a hospital gown, socks and a toque, cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, but a coroner's inquest has since been called.

Police reported that of the two million calls officers responded to last year, 17,000 were for emotionally distressed people.

In all, 6,664 people were apprehended under the Mental Health Act.

The topic of Tasers did not come up during Thursday's board meeting. Speakers mainly called on Toronto police to move away from a "control" approach to one that "de-escalates" the situation and demanded better training.

Former Toronto mayor John Sewell, head of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, also urged police to expand its mobile crisis intervention teams, which pair nurses with police, so that they operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, instead of just part-time and in select divisions.

"Toronto police need to pay more than just lip service to de-escalation," said Douglas Pritchard, a witness to the shooting of Eligon, who has joined a group called Never Again. "Why are people still dying in Toronto for lack of appropriate crisis response?"

The board asked Blair to report back on recommendations by a mental-health subcommittee, and to review procedures used to respond to incidents involving the mentally ill.

Four people died on Friday the 13th, three American, one Canadian

719. April 13, 2012: Marland Anderson, 39, Los Angeles, California
720. April 13, 2012: Jeff Oatway, 34, Edmonton, Alberta
721. April 13, 2012: Joe Faltesek, 41, Houston, Texas
722. April 13, 2012: George Salgado, 21, Miami, Florida

Monday, April 16, 2012

Inadequate reporting on the actions that lead to taser tragedies

Food for thought from a Concerned Canadian:

Up to 721 taser-related deaths?!  As sad as that is, there has been some positive progress in awareness and responsibility on the West Coast.  The Vancouver Police Department has fewer officers than ever signing up for Taser training. Perhaps they've read the long list of risks & warnings on the volunteer waiver?  It is anecdotal, but in Vancouver rank & file officers are rarely seen carrying them now. 

The Edmonton death will be interesting to watch.  The police there are already saying they believe the man  was on a "substance".  Yet he'd been in custody, awaiting a bail hearing. How was he able to imbibe, if he was in a supposedly secure jail?  By mentioning a 'substance" to the media, it is very much like Dziekanski and many other such deaths.  Villify the victim.

It is true no one - outside of the investigators and the involved officers - knows exactly what happened.  There were security cameras, so hopefully there will be some visual evidence. 

Also the Edmonton reporters have failed to ask CRUCIAL questions such as:

How many stuns?
Duration of stuns?
Number of weapons used?
What mode of use- drive stun or probe mode?
Where on the body were the shocks delivered?

Edmonton police don’t seem to be on top of recent rulings in the U-S courts, where the Taser is now considered a ‘deadly weapon’.  The manufacturer lost a significant product liability case (Turner in Charlotte, NC), where the jury found Taser International failed to warn about the risk of chest shots for nearly fours years, after health risks were discovered by their own scientists.  This is a far cry from what the company crowed about in the beginning, when its senior managers said Tasers are “safe to use on any assailant.”   Police have got to ask themselves whether they want to risk using a potentially lethal weapon as a compliance tool. 

This is made all the worse because no one in law enforcement anywhere is measuring Tasers for ‘output variance’, yet the few tests that have been done have revealed that not all Tasers perform the same way.  Despite what the company claimed early on, the current being emitted from Tasers is NOT uniform.  This poses risks to both the public and the police. 

Even more concerning, there is still no independent standard of measurment developed for Conducted Energy Weapons; the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) AND the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) are collaborating to create a scientifically valid test protocol.  As it stands now-- and it is difficult to fathom --  there is still NO electrical safety standard developed to measure invasive shocks. 

Concerned Canadian

Houston man dies after he’s shocked with a taser

THREE people died after they were tasered on Friday the 13th of April 2012, including Joe Faltesek, 41, Houston, Texas

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Edmonton man dies

April 13, 2012
Calgary Herald


A man who was struck with a Taser while in Edmonton police custody earlier this week died in hospital Friday, his mother says.

Simone Oatway told Global News on Friday that her son, Jeff, had serious mental health problems for most of his life, and struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.

The 34-year-old was struck with a Taser at least once in the basement of the downtown police station on Wednesday afternoon.

According to Edmonton Police Association president Tony Simioni, Oatway was being transferred from his cell to a holding area to await a bail hearing at the time.

He had been in the custody of one female police officer and two civilian safety officers when he became violent, Simioni said.

"It was sudden, unexpected and violent as hell," said Simioni. "In a pre-Taser world, in that kind of serious circumstance, when a person is that out of control and there is that much apparent strength, the first option would have been your gun."

Simioni said at least 12 police officers tried to restrain Oatway.

The Taser, he said, didn't seem to have much initial impact on the man.

"The medical episode took place after the Taser was deployed. When the Taser was deployed, it had no effect, none. The Taser did not get this person under control. It was not effective. He fought on."
An ambulance was called and officers made efforts to resuscitate Oatway.

Edmonton police spokeswoman Clair Seyler said no new information is being released about the incident, which now has been handed over to Alberta's Serious Incident Response Team for investigation.

Simioni has described the incident as "a massive struggle" that left a path of destruction through the area.

Speaking to Global News, Simone Oatway said her son's life was troubled and he had bounced between jail and the streets.

"I know he probably was very violent and was out of his mind, but couldn't there have been another way without Tasering him?" she said.

California man dies

April 13, 2012: Marland Anderson, 39, Los Angeles, California

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Man in coma after tasering at Edmonton police headquarters: media report

April 12, 2012
Globe and Mail

An Edmonton radio station is reporting that a man is in a coma and on life support after he was hit with a charge from a Taser gun during a struggle with police.

The station (CHED) says the man was being held at the downtown police headquarters awaiting a bail hearing Wednesday when he reportedly jumped a counter in the prisoner processing area.

The report says the man, who is in his 30s, stopped breathing and had no detectable heartbeat after the electronic stun gun was used on him when he could not be subdued.

Officers worked to resuscitate the prisoner until emergency medical personnel arrived.

Homicide detectives are investigating and the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has been notified.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Same video analyst (former Vancouver cop) worked on Robert Dziekanski and Spokane Otto Zehm police perjury deaths

Former Vancouver police officer Grant Fredericks has become an “expert” in analysing police videos.

His website description says:

“Grant is a former police officer and coordinator of the Vancouver Police Forensic Video Unit in Canada. He is an adjunct instructor of Forensic Video Analysis at the National Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Lab at the University of Indianapolis and is a contract instructor at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, VA..”  http://www.forensicvideoexpert.com/

In the Robert Dziekanski case, he was brought in by counsel for  Constable Bentley and testified in the Braidwood case that Dziekanski moved toward the officers. His qualification to make this conclusion was shown to be very weak and although he descibed it as “photogrammetry” he was merely counting pixels. He didn’t come out of the Braidwood testimony well:


Braidwood’s conclusions are listed in this Georgia Strait article:


Otto Zehm:   Now he is shown under questionable circumstances in Spokane’s Otto Zehm killing in 2006:


Video expert paid by city, working for feds

More arguments are expected April 16 as attorneys for Thompson continue to press U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle to grant the decorated former police officer a new trial.

Van Sickle indefinitely postponed Thompson’s Jan. 27 sentencing after the judge was contacted in December by forensic video expert Grant Fredericks, who claimed that federal prosecutors misrepresented the conclusions he would have expressed had he been called to testify at Thompson’s trial.

In response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed has filed reams of documents and grand jury transcripts that refute Fredericks’ claims. The documents also show Fredericks wasn’t truthful about how he was brought into the investigation.

Fredericks, as late as last month, said under oath that he was first contacted by a county prosecutor to analyze the convenience store’s surveillance video. But emails from 2006 show Fredericks first contacted a Spokane police officer and offered his services in “helping” show that Zehm was using a 2-liter Diet Pepsi bottle as a weapon.

The allegations against Fredericks, who did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment, include providing “patent inaccuracies or inconsistencies” in two previous cases where Fredericks – a former Vancouver, B.C., police officer – provided testimony in defense of other officers’ actions. In one of those cases, four Canadian officers now face perjury charges based on assertions put forth by Fredericks.

The documents also, for the first time, show Fredericks was billing Treppiedi, the assistant city attorney, even after Fredericks completed his work for the city and started meeting with federal officials.

Because of a backlog of cases at the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., federal prosecutors hired Fredericks to do a second video analysis, where he changed many of the assertions he provided the city. Federal prosecutors later found out that much of the work Fredericks did for the FBI was being funneled back to Treppiedi.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Winnipeg police officer loses ANOTHER!!!! taser cartridge

Winnipeg Police LOST 5 taser cartridges in 2010.  In 2011, they lost three AND a complete taser.  Now, they've lost another cartridge:

April 9, 2012
Winnipeg Free Press

City police officer loses taser cartridge

WINNIPEG -- City police are asking for the public’s help in locating a taser cartridge that became dislodged from an officer’s service belt on Sunday in St. James.

The taser itself was not lost but the cartridge contain probes on wires which extend when the device is discharged.

Police warn that the cartridge could pose a risk if it was picked up by an unsuspecting person and carried in a pocket.

"A build-up of static energy could activate the cartridge, causing the probes to be propelled," police said in a statement.

Anybody who finds the cartridge is asked to contact police at 986-6222.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Comment on RT website (maybe) from Steve Tuttle of Taser International

The following comment was posted under the name Steve Tuttle (who, if he indeed wrote this, is the Vice President of Communications at Taser International), in response to:  RT’s apology to Taser International - the killer of 500 Americans, according to Amnesty International

This isn't my first rodeo RT, but if you call that a retraction you may want to use the word sandbag instead. Your RT TV America producer contacted me before this retraction came out to go on air after you stated that a man was killed by a TASER. Turns out he was shot by bullets.

A retraction after unbelievable amounts of RTs to your Tweet was certainly good to hear but I doubted it would be so interesting to read. You put it this as if, Oh we were wrong but as it turns out "the killer of 500 Americans, according to Amnesty International."

Turns out RT is wrong once again. Is that what Amnesty really put on record? When I read AI's report, it states clearly, "Most of the deaths have been attributed to other causes. However, medical examiners have listed Tasers as a cause or contributing factor in more than 60 deaths, and in a number of other cases the exact cause of death is unknown."

Anyone see 500 deaths caused or contributed to the TASER in AI's report?

Check your facts here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/usa-stricter-limits-urged-deaths-following-police-taser-use-reach-500-2012-02-15

If you mess up, you fess up. However, that just seems to be yet another reason to mess up here. Not one ounce of professional journalism in that retraction.

So it seems that once again, RT is in need of yet another correction. I tried to speak with the writer after speaking with the producer of RT TV America. So far, my phone is ringing and whoever wrote it doesn't have a voicemail.

While we may disagree, at least get the fact straight.

RT’s apology to Taser International - the killer of 500 Americans, according to Amnesty International

RT (formerly known as Russia Today)
April 6, 2012

In regards to our recent report on Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68-year-old retired US Marine killed by police officers in his home, RT would like to extend our apologies to Taser International and offer clarification to our readers.

In our article published April 5, “NY cops break into Marine vet's home and Taser him to death,” RT was imprecise in our wording of the story’s headline and would like to formally offer our apologies to Taser, the manufacturer of the electroshock guns used by law enforcement across the country and, unfortunately, also on the late Mr. Chamberlain. We have appropriately retitled our original article.

In addition to saying we are sorry to Taser, who we cannot blame directly in the death of the vet, we would like to clarify that, although the cause of death has not been made available to us, it was incorrect on our part to summarize the story as we did in our original headline. We cannot, with certainty, say that the elderly retired correctional officer that suffered from a heart condition died from injuries suffered as police officers attacked him with a Taser gun. While Mr. Chamberlain did pass away shortly after law enforcement used Taser guns on him, those same officers also fired “nonlethal” beanbag projectiles from a shotgun and used live ammunition on the man before he was transported to an area hospital only to die in front of his family.

"The last time I actually really saw my father, other than the funeral, was at the hospital, with his eyes wide open, his tongue hanging out his mouth, and two bullet holes in his chest," his son, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., tells Democracy Now.

According to law enforcement accounts, police were dispatched to Chamberlain’s White Plains, New York house last year after he triggered his medical alert pendant. After Mr. Chamberlain failed to respond to calls from LifeAid, the medical alert company, police were sent to his home to check on his health. Chamberlain then greeted them at the door, told them he was alright and refused them entry to his home. Unwilling to take his word, however, police officers demanded they be allowed admittance, but not before eventually removing the door to his home and firing shots at him as he stood in his underwear, arms akimbo.

Audio recorded on the scene allegedly reveals Chamberlain telling the officers, "I’m OK. I didn’t call you. Why are you doing this to me? Please leave me alone,” then warning them, "I’m a 68-year-old man with a heart condition.”

The tape, which has not been made public but has been circulated to attorneys and those close to the matter, also allegedly contains an audio testimony made by Chamberlain in which he says, “I know what you’re going to do. You’re going to come in here, and you’re going to kill me."

Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr. adds that officers respond to his father’s plea by saying, "Why would you think that? We’re not going to do that."

"Yes, you are. You have your guns out. Why do you have your guns out? Oh, you have a shield,” the late Mr. Chamberlain allegedly replies in the recording.

The younger Chamberlain also says cops called his father a “nigger” and mocked his military career.
If all goes as planned, a grand jury will begin an investigation into the case later this year and establish whether or not the law officers sent to check on the elderly man’s health were justified in using their Tasers to attempt to incapacitate the man before shooting him to death. His attorney seems certain that the police was in the wrong, though.

“To use a Taser, which is going to send significant electricity through that person’s body, would be, at best, reckless. And that alone could cause his death” attorney Mayo Bartlett tells Democracy Now. “And the thing that’s extremely troubling to me is that, again, the police were not there to respond to criminal activity. They went to the gentleman’s house at 5:00 in the morning to give him assistance. The only reason that he had the LifeAid pendant to begin with was so that his family and that he would be comfortable that if something was to occur, he would be able to get assistance.”

“The first thing they did, as soon as that door was finally broken off the hinges, you could see the taser light up, and it was charged, and you could see it going directly toward him. Now that was 100 percent unnecessary,” adds Bartlett.

In responding to RT’s original article, a representative for Taser International insists that although “Mr. Chamberlain was shot twice with a firearm,” reports filed suggest that the electroshock gun used was “ineffective.” It has yet to be clarified as to if the weapon was discharged improperly, if did not have the desired effect on the man or what, in fact, was ineffective of it, but we would like to state, for the record, that we are sorry if our article misconstrued the facts of the story.

RT understands that Taser International would be upset by our inaccurate reporting, especially after being responsible for so many other deaths in the past. After all, it was only earlier this year that Amnesty International reported that, in only one decade, at least 500 people in America alone had been killed as a result of Taser blasts.

“Of the hundreds who have died following police use of Tasers in the USA, dozens and possibly scores of deaths can be traced to unnecessary force being used,” Susan Lee, Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International, explained in the groups’ report.

Not specifically commenting on Chamberlain’s death, Lee added with her findings, “What is most disturbing about the police use of Tasers is that the majority of those who later died were not a serious threat when they were shocked by police.”

“Most of the deaths have been attributed to other causes,” continued the report. “However, medical examiners have listed Tasers as a cause or contributing factor in more than 60 deaths, and in a number of other cases the exact cause of death is unknown.”

“Even if deaths directly from Taser shocks are relatively rare, adverse effects can happen very quickly, without warning, and be impossible to reverse,” she adds.

Amnesty International published their findings earlier this year, only days after fatality number 500 was added to the list of Taser-related deaths. Earlier this year, a 43-year-old unarmed man was shocked by Tasers by police after being allegedly intoxicated in the state of Alabama. He died in the hospital two hours later.

Last year, a federal judge awarded a $1 million settlement to the family of a 15-year-old boy that died, in part, due to the “application of an electromuscular disruption device.” He was shot with a Taser in 2009.

The website Truth, Not Tasers believes the official Taser-related death toll to be closer to 700 than the 500 reported by Amnesty International.