By Greg Moses
As details of the Austin case are still being
puzzled together by press and police officials, local activists said at
a press conference Tuesday afternoon that tasers are dangerous enough
to be taken out of service pending further review.
Statesman reports that 33-year-old Michael Clark was shocked multiple
times after being pepper sprayed during a struggle involving nine
police officers. Family members told the Statesman that Clark was using
crutches after a leg injury Sunday]
Austin Dullnig of the
Texas Civil Liberties Union questioned police use of lethal force in
two recent incidents: the fatal shooting of "130 pound 18-year-old"
Daniel Rocha who was allegedly resisting arrest in June during a
traffic stop/drug bust; and now the death of a 30-something African
American male who allegedly struggled with nine police officers who
were called to the scene of a fight between the man and a woman. Police
have been slow to post an official version of Monday’s Taser associated
death. As of midnight Tuesday, no press releases mentioning the
incident appear at the department’s official web site.
Austin Police Chief Stan Knee has been widely quoted saying that
Monday’s death was, "the first time someone has died in custody after
being Tased," activists point to the case of Abel Ortega Perez who "was
tased several times and later died". The Austin Chronicle reports that
the official cause of death for Mr. Perez was "accidental overdose".
The American-Statesman reports that police say Perez also had a
superficial head wound prior to the burglary he was arrested for
committing. Could the head wound prove to be the official cause of
death? Statesman reporter Joshunda Sanders writes that the final
autopsy (for the June 2004 case?) was still unavailable Monday night.
Sanders attended Tuesday’s press conference outside police headquarters
(see press release below).
The Perez case went unreported in
the press for more than a year, until local activists noticed a taser
associated death in a routine statistical report. The Chronicle
mentioned the case in August when reporting on an admission by Taser
International, Inc. that "repeated, prolonged and/or continuous
exposure to the Taser may cause strong muscle contractions that may
impair breathing and respiration, particularly when the [weapon’s
metal] probes are placed across the chest or diaphragm."
Taser International admits their product is lethal, then you know you
have a problem," said Debbie Russell at Tuesday’s press conference.
"dies taser" on your favorite search engine. Try "dies taser" on your
favorite search engine under news. In California, South Carolina,
Nashville, and now in Austin, four people died this past week following
taser attacks. In late August, men died in Ohio and Florida following
taser attacks. In the Florida and South Carolina cases, reports say the
victim was stunned twice. In Nashville it was "multiple times" by as
many as 11 officers.
Said Victoria of the Austin Spokescouncil,
"The public perception of Tasers is that they save lives. But they are
not only immoral, they are potentially deadly."
originally billed as weapons to be used instead of guns, but the weapon
has taken on a life of its own. Taser use went up from 66 to 334 from
2003 to 2004 says the Statesman. TCLU’s Dullnig said at the press
conference that of 334 Taser uses reported by the Austin Police
Department in 2004, only five were said to have replaced use of guns.
Police are claiming that injuries to suspects and police have gone down
as a result of taser deployment, but it’s not clear from web sources
whether being stunned is being itself counted as an injury under usual
Spencer Crowl of ownside.org
said, "Considering that the Taser is the second line of defense, I
would be shocked if APD came out and said they would have needed to use
guns 300-350 times."
Amnesty International also worries,
"that US police agencies are deploying tasers as a routine force option
to subdue non-compliant or disturbed individuals who do not pose a
serious danger to themselves or others." But Amnesty also worries that
sometimes, "the use of electro-shock weapons appears to have violated
international standards prohibiting torture or other cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment as well as standards set out under the United
Nations (UN) Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the
Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement
As Chief Knee told the Statesman, "use of the Taser
during the arrest was in line with department policy, which allows use
of a Taser whenever a suspect actively resists arrest."
For immediate release – Sept. 27, 2005
Contact: Debbie Russell: (512) 573-6194 "The Taser Hotline"
MORATORIUM on TASERS NOW!!!!
Austin Police Department must stop targeting the people of southeast Austin!
PRESS CONFERENCE: 5pm today: APD Headquarters, 8th and I-35
a person of color died approximately an hour after being “Tasered” by
APD. According to the Statesman, there were 5 officers present to
subdue the one reportedly uncooperative suspect. Given these odds, the
police should have been able to subdue a single individual without
having to use the second most deadly weapon in their arsenal. Instead,
they used a lethal weapon on a single unarmed and outmanned suspect,
and ended up killing him, as in the shooting of Daniel Rocha that
occurred not 4 months ago. Contrary to statements by Chief Knee, such
exaggerated use of force is not in accordance with APD policy, which
calls for the “least amount of force necessary” to resolve a conflict.
Now that more and more medical examiners nationwide are ruling that
Tasers are a contributing cause, and in some cases, the primary cause,
of deaths; since some segments of the law enforcement community are
coming out AGAINST the weapon such as 2 divisions of the Department of
Homeland Security having dsallowed their use and a national law
enforcement-based class action suit against Taser, Int. has been
brought forth – accusing the company of misleading the law enforcement
community and the public in terms of safety; since the SEC is now fully
investigating Taser Int., (after earlier this year announcing an
inquiry into the safety of the product); and while TASER, INT.
themselves admit they are lethal,* there is no logical reason to
continue to use these poorly-designed and potentially lethal tools on
While the City of Austin’s Human Rights Commission
is hard at work on improving policy and oversight regarding the use of
these lethal weapons, the City must act today by placing a moratorium
on Taser use until further studies have been conducted and APD use of
force policies and procedures have been further examined and revised.
It is too late to help the second victim in Austin of Taser abuse by
the APD, but we can prevent further deaths! We must implement an
IMMEDIATE MORATORIUM on their use in Austin!
Hartwig, a very recent APD Taser victim, will be on hand to relay his
story about how policy was broken when police on 6th St. repeatedly and
simultaneously tasered him as a means to resolve a conflict that was no
longer even taking place.
*From a June 28 memo:
"repeated, prolonged and/or continuous exposure to the Taser may cause
strong muscle contractions that may impair breathin
g and respiration,
particularly when the [weapon’s metal] probes are placed across the
chest or diaphragm…[which] may lead to death.” This is the first
admittance that the weapon is, in fact, NOT non-lethal. This came out,
certainly without coincidence, on the same day that the first medical
examiner in the nation (in Chicago) ruled a Taser as the primary cause
Links related to above info: