Disabuse yourself of the notion that a stun gun holds little risk.
It’s simply far less likely to be implicated in a death than a bullet and therefore is often the preferred tool if police think they need help subduing a person.
Hearts, if they’re already in a weakened state, can be affected after being hit with the 50,000-volt shock. Or people fall and hit their heads after being stunned.
Randall C. Torrence, 34, died Wednesday at a hospital after a Kansas City, Kan., police officer used a stun gun on him. No cause of death has been released. The case is under investigation. Police said Torrence had been seen acting erratically and became combative when paramedics tried to help him.
Clearly there are unanswered questions. Where on his body were the gun’s probes shot into Torrence? Was he shocked once or multiple times, and were there any indications that he was at risk for serious harm?
That is among the biggest unknowns for police. In most cases there is virtually no way they can know whether a person might have a heart condition or has taken a drug that might make death or serious injury more likely. The liabilities for police are daunting, and there have been costly settlements, even when officers were found to have acted appropriately.
Cleveland police were criticized recently by the U.S. Justice Department for excessively using the devices on people in handcuffs, seemingly to simply punish suspects.
A Scottsdale, Ariz., company, Taser International, is the best known in the business, supplying to police since the 1990s. Stun guns have rightly been lauded for saving the lives of police and civilians — and criticized when cases go wrong. A lack of sufficient training or police breaking protocol is often the issue.
In addition, the often split-second decision-making required of police is repeatedly showcased in deaths associated with the use of stun guns.
Last week a veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, a man who had been previously decorated for valor, was disciplined in a stun gun death. He was among officers trying to coax a mentally ill homeless man from atop a building. The officer used the stun gun too quickly and without enough warning to the other officers, it was determined. Police grabbed the man’s legs, but he tumbled 15 feet to his death, barely missing two air cushions that firefighters had set out to break his fall.
The officer told investigators he thought the man would fall differently and would be saved.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to email@example.com.