Man Dies After Being Hit With Pepper Spray and Taser

A man caught fighting with a woman on the street has died after being subdued with pepper spray and a Taser blast by Austin police. From the description at News 8 Austin, it seems like he may have been under the influence of something:

“There was at least six officers at the scene. The struggle ensued, he was described as almost having superhuman powers. One officer was bitten through his glove by the suspect. Another officer received a shoulder injury during the struggle. So there was enough officers there, based on what I was briefed on, the less than lethal use was in accordance with policy and they certainly needed every officer on the scene,” an APD officer said.

This is the second death I’ve seen following the use of Taser stun guns in a week. It was also discovered this week that Taser International offered stock options to officers who promoted the stun guns to their cities. Taser has denied wrongdoing in a press release.

My previous Austin Metroblogging post on Taser can be found here.

Update: The medical examiner reports three wounds that appear to be Taser-related: “Drake and Eiben, who were placed on restricted duty after the death as is standard procedure, were placed back on full duty by Police Chief Stan Knee on Wednesday.”

Update: KXAN employees take part in an APD taser demonstration.

Update: Local Austin activists call for moratorium on APD Taser use: “Although 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’. ”

Taser has limited its use of the word “non-lethal” in marketing materials to appease Arizona officials.

Update: Statesman editorial calls for re-examination of department’s policies on use of force and calls for the release of video footage of the incident as soon as possible. Of the 14 people who have died after APD encounters since 1998, all but one were minorities.

Update: KXAN reports a funeral is being held for Michael Clark: “Tuesday, members of the Austin NAACP will discuss what they call ‘the failure’ of the District Attorney’s Office to pursue indictments against Austin police.”

Update: The Austin Chronicle features three takes on the Taser incident. Jordan Smith gives a good recap of what’s happened in the case so far and Michael King says “it seems that the Tasers may have been too readily relied upon as an instant mechanical solution to a situation that might better have been resolved with some patience and ingenuity, or at least some attempt to determine whether the suspect might not be a good candidate for electroshock.” Most hilarious is the article questioning television news reporters who seemed overly eager to submit themselves to APD shock treatment (“Thanks to KXAN’s in-depth report last week, viewers now know that when reporter Jenny Hoff is blasted with a Taser she makes a noise vaguely resembling Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm in the movie When Harry Met Sally.”).

Update: A Statesman editorial covers current concerns over police Taser use.

Update: Taser earnings drop 96 percent over safety concerns (This article from BusinessWeek goes into the financial problems: “The sales outlook has become so bleak that in the fourth quarter of 2004 Taser stopped issuing earnings forecasts.”).

Update: Coroner’s report says Taser did not cause death.

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