Students with "Don't Taser Me" signs.
Taser related deaths are on the rise, though the backlash against the use of the devices is growing. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Stun guns, most commonly Taser brand, have become a widely used tool for law enforcement officers. Though Tasers are supposedly non-lethal, a growing number of deaths have been associated with stun guns despite public outcry against their use.

Wide use of so-called non-lethal device

A growing number of law enforcement officers carry a Taser or other brand of stun gun, a “non-lethal” alternative to firearms that incapacitates people by delivering powerful electric shocks via electrodes shot into the victim. The device is supposed to reduce the risk of death because it doesn’t use bullets, but studies show the number of deaths from stun gun use is increasing. According to Rawstory.com, the rate of stun gun-related deaths has increased from four per month in 2008 to five per month as of 2010. According to TruthNotTasers, a stun gun-use awareness organization, 679 people in America have died after being shot with stun guns by police. Amnesty International found there were 351 stun gun-related deaths from 2001 to 2008. According to TruthNotTaser’s figures, that makes 328 deaths from 2009 to 2011.

Number of lawsuits on the rise

More people are suing law enforcement agencies and the company that makes Tasers for wrongful death of a loved one or cruel and unusual punishment after a stun gun was deployed by law enforcement. According to the Shelby Star, Taser International Inc. was ordered to pay $10 million in a wrongful death suit after 17-year-old Darryl Turner was shocked for less than one minute in 2008 by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer and died after the incident. Ryan Wilson died after being shot with Tasers in 2006 by police in Boulder, Co., and his parents reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with Taser International this year, according to the Daily Camera. Currently, Ryan Jones is suing the state of Utah for excessive use of force. Jones was stopped by police near Salt Lake and shocked by a Utah State trooper while asking to speak to an attorney, according to ABC4, a news station for Salt Lake City. The city of Bountiful, Utah, according to ABC4, recently settled a similar excessive force suit brought by a man named Bruce Harper, who was shot with a stun gun during a traffic stop while in his vehicle, again when he exited the vehicle and again while he was on the ground.

Other recent incidents

According to CBS, 18-year-old Everette Howard died from being shot with a stun gun at the University of Cincinnati on Sunday. According to the Los Angeles Times, last month six law enforcement officers in Fullerton, Calif., stunned and beat Kelly Thomas so badly that he fell into a coma, which he never woke up from. Thomas, a homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia, was removed from life support after five days.

Sources

RawStory: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/09/05/taser-related-deaths-accelerating/

TruthnotTasers: http://truthnottasers.blogspot.com/

ShelbyStar: http://www.shelbystar.com/news/lethal-56853-charlotte-police.html

Daily Camera: http://www.dailycamera.com/lafayette-news/ci_18617295

ABC4: http://www.abc4.com/content/news/state/story/State-responds-to-taser-lawsuit-against-UHP/AhSTuodsREe5DF0uO_tgOA.cspx

ABC4: http://www.abc4.com/news/local/story/EXCLUSIVE-Bountiful-City-settles-taser-lawsuit/KQEAenKQS02dTF8Q9DTQ3w.cspx

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/08/08/national/main20089435.shtml

Los Angeles Times: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/08/attorney-defends-fullerton-officers-in-death-of-homeless-man.html

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