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Related story - (All Things Considered, April 1, 2005) The Taser Gun's Physical Effect
The ACLU and private attorneys filed a federal lawsuit yesterday alleging that actions by Metro and a taser company resulted in the wrongful death of a man who was handcuffed. The suit seeks 10 million dollars in compensation. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.
PLASKON: When Metropolitan Police Department Sergeant Becker pulls out his taser, other officers back away.
BECKER: Its armed now see.
PLASKON: A red laser is trained on the target.
BECKER: What happens is that it sticks in you and gives a five second burst of, 50-thousand volts so it totally incapacitates you.
BECKER: Sometimes we have to use them, but we try not to, we try to use our communication's skills to solve problems it is so much easier, less paperwork too.
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PLASKON: Officers know how dangerous they are. In fact two metropolitan police officers have filed suit in state court after having tasers used on them in training. They aren't just a discomfort for those shocked by them either. The International Association of Chiefs of Police is studying the use of tasers in 80-deaths across the country. A total of 140 have died according to the Arizona Republic newspaper. 129 of those taser-related deaths occurred after the victims were shocked multiple times according to Amnesty International.
TUCKER: We gotta get the right thing done, Keith was my best friend and my only son.
PLASKON: Sanford Tucker stood in front of reporters and described what happened a year and two months ago to his son who had a broken arm and leg.
TUCKER: Keith was in his own home, in his own bedroom, laying on his bed starting no trouble with anybody and they beat him, till they were both worn out and he was handcuffed and they shot him four times in the heart with the tasers and did him in, killed him.
PLASKON: He describes his son as a mellow surfer. Sanford scattered his son's ashes in the 7 sacred pools of Maui a year ago.
TUCKER: I want them to change the law, and I would like it to be in my son's name.
PLASKON: It's the fourth taser-related death in Nevada. Coincidentally today yesterday the ACLU of northern California released a report that a lack of taser policies in police departments is endangering lives. Gary Peck, executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada lobbied heavily last legislative session for laws governing the use of tasers but he says legislators refused to even debate the issue. The ACLU, Amnesty International, the Progressive Leadership Alliance, NAACP have asked the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to review its policies related to tasers as well. The department has refused, so Tucker has retained Attorney Brent Bryson and filed a federal lawsuit.
BRYSON: We intend to demonstrate and we are going to do it right here in this court of law that Mr Sanford's son Keith was killed not only by Metro's intolerable and continued use of excessive force but by tazer that has misrepresented the use of its product.
PLASKON: This suit is the third brought against Taser International Incorporated for allegedly falsely marketing its product as non-lethal. According to Taser International, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has more tasers than any other police departments except for Houston, Texas. Metro released a statement that couldn't comment on the suit, but that the department has an ongoing commitment to re-evaluate it's use of force polices as it relates to technology.
Ky Plaskon, News 88-9, KNPR