- A man who Phoenix police say exhibited bizarre behavior
and "incredible strength" died Friday morning after he broke
into a Church's Chicken restaurant, chased out the employees and fought
with officers, who shocked him three times with a Taser.
- His death marks the second time in a week that someone
died after a Taser shock and comes only two days after the mayor of Birmingham,
Ala., ordered police there to stop using Tasers because of concerns over
the stun gun's safety.
- More than 130 people, including four men in the Valley,
have died after police Taser shocks since 1999. Earlier this week, a 17-year-old
boy in Texas died after being shocked three times by police responding
to a call that the youth was high on drugs.
- Taser International, the Scottsdale manufacturer of
the stun gun, maintains that its weapons have never caused a death or serious
- But an ongoing investigation by The Arizona Republic
shows that the gun has been cited by medical examiners in 17 cases.
- The Phoenix suspect, whom police have not yet identified,
was reportedly ranting and raving after forcing his way into the closed
restaurant at Seventh and Grand avenues.
- "He was slamming his head and body against the
doors and windows," police spokesman Sgt Randy Force said Friday.
"He started fighting with employees."
- Employees Lock Man In
- The three employees, who were attempting to close the
restaurant, ran outside and locked the suspect in. Force said officers
arrived minutes later and saw the man jumping on the counter and running
into walls and windows.
- When police unlocked the restaurant, the man reportedly
charged at four officers.
- "The officers were simply trying to take him into
custody," Force said.
- During the struggle, the man was reportedly shocked
three times with a Taser, once in the arm, the leg and the lower back.
- Although the Taser fires two electrically charged darts
from distances of 21 feet, it can also be used as a hand-held device,
in which officers push the probes of the stun gun directly against a suspect's
- Force said this was how the device was used against the
- "It was completely ineffective," he said, adding
that the suspect continued to fight for almost 10 minutes before officers
overpowered the man and placed him in restraints and in a mask to prevent
him from spitting at officers.
- Once the suspect stopped fighting, officers noticed that
he had stopped breathing. Paramedics who had already been called to the
scene performed CPR but were unable to revive the man. He was pronounced
dead at 1:07 a.m.
- Force said an autopsy was being preformed Friday but
it will be several months before it is known whether the man had alcohol
or drugs in his system.
- Force said the sequence of events leading to the man's
death is typical of violent suspects who fight with police and then die
in custody, whether a Taser is used by police or not.
- Ongoing Investigation
- An ongoing investigation by The Arizona Republic has
identified 132 deaths in the United States and Canada after police Taser
use since 1999. Of those, medical examiners cited the Taser in 17 deaths.
- A Taser was ruled as a cause of death in three cases
and a contributing factor in 10 cases. In four cases, medical examiners
said they could not rule out Tasers as a cause of death.
- More than 7,000 law enforcement agencies in the United
States have armed their officers with Tasers. But a growing number of
deaths has left many cities rethinking Taser purchases as police officials,
city council members and state legislators raise concerns about the need
for more independent safety studies on the stun gun.
- Taser stock, which soared last year, dropped nearly
two-thirds this year after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
and the Arizona attorney general announced separate inquiries into safety
claims made by company officials.
- Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid ordered police to stop
using Tasers this week after the July 7 death of a 41-year-old man in
the city jail.
- Although Kincaid said his decision was not motivated
by the death, the mayor said he is convinced that there is a need for
safety studies on non-lethal weapons.