Reported deaths following taser use by law-enforcement officers,
January 1st 2014 to December 22nd 2014 (N = 43)
Patrick Bolland, GlobalShock.org
How many people died in 2014 just after they were tasered by the police? Who were they? and In what circumstances did they die? The answers can be found in a detailed Table (starting on page 4 below) with names, dates, locations and the best available summary of what actually occurred in the altercation that proved fatal for the persons who were tasered. Whether the taser actually caused or even contributed to their deaths is another question, which I raise but certainly cannot answer here.
In brief, in 2014, I have identified 43 people who died in the minutes, hours or (less often) days after they were tasered by the police. (Another four died but almost certainly the taser, though used, was not causally related to the tragic outcome – see Addendum on page 11). In each of the 43 scenarios, it is more than plausible to hypothesize – note the caution – that if these people had not been tasered these people would have survived their fatal encounter with the Police.
Pandora’s Box: Exploring the causal link between taser discharges (low amperage, high intensity) and deaths following the use of the taser is fraught with problems: a Pandora’s Box of disputed findings.
The first step is to open the Box, count, identify, and describe what’s inside. These data should be available through official channels, but they are not. Ninety percent of post-taser deaths occur in the United States, but there are no published US data on deaths subsequent to taser use. “We don’t count the dead” the American commanders used to say in the first Gulf War. This would seem to apply equally to these tragic deaths, on home territory.
My goal is to provide a detailed, fact-checkable body-count – with an important addition: a summary of events preceding death. Without polemic, and with as much transparency as I can muster.
For or against: The conclusions to be drawn will be polarized. These data can be rejected as “meaningless”, “unreliable”, “unsubstantiated”, etc. Certainly, for many, not relevant to the issue of public security and the value-added by taser technology. The association between tasers and deaths is a matter of chance, not causality. These people died for extraneous reasons, not because they were tasered.
Critics of taser deployment by the Police – and I include myself in this camp – will see in these “raw data” confirmation of their fears that tasers are far more lethal than is commonly thought. It is indeed hard to explain these deaths – within minutes or a couple of hours, occasionally days – of receiving a taser shock. In brief, most of these deaths would surely not have occurred if the person hadn’t been tasered. Medical distress presaging death is not just subsequent to but also appears to be consequent on the taser discharge.
Information sources: Since there is no data-base on “taser-related deaths”, in the Unites States at least (some 90% of taser-subsequent deaths are American), one has to look elsewhere for the data. I wanted reports as close temporally to the events themselves, and local news-reporting of unfolding events is, I feel, the best source. Local news outlets – newspapers and TV stations – are the source for nearly all our information. Crime-beat reporters respond to the unanticipated event, collect all available information from police, witnesses and family-members, and attempt to “tell it like it is”. In the often opaque world of tasers, few are as unbiased as these reporters.
Reliability: Taser-advocates will certainly argue that reporting by local journalists is “unreliable”, “unscientific”, “naïve” or “rushed”. I would argue that local reports are precisely the closest outsiders can today get to “the facts”, to what actually happened in fatal taser incidents.
Each story reported here has been followed up for a few days. If the early report is contradicted, I correct the story – but this was very rarely necessary. (Elsewhere, I have found that coroner’s reports of fatal taser episodes also generally confirm the first reporting, although details may get corrected as the Police point-of-view becomes more focused.)
In brief reporters on the crime beat are more reliable than detractors may want to claim.
Google: How do I get this information from so many local media? Amazingly easily: some 90% of the first-reports come from “taser” Google Alerts, which pick up on local-news stories almost as they are put on line (as well as trawling up a lot of useless material). Quite simply, a death following the use of a taser by police-officers is intrinsically “news-worthy”: published reports, including transcripts of local TV-News are rapidly uploaded to media web-sites and these are picked up by the Google search engine and can be accessed via Alerts.
Autopsies: Why not report the cause of death by the experts: medical examiners? Autopsy reports are actually fraught with problems when tasers are used: the low-amperage taser-discharges leave no identifiable trace on pathologists’ toxicological and anatomical charts, and their discipline is experience-based and their professional duty is to be factual, not conjectural. Failure to identify the taser as causally related to a death can be interpreted as (a) proof that the taser was not lethal, or (b) a serious methodological problems in forensic research. Death is typically caused by cardiac arrest, with no quantifiable indicator showing that the taser, which effectively short-circuits the central nervous system (and so the heart), even contributed to heart failure. Since many of the deceased had antecedent heart conditions, some were drug-abusers or many were psychiatrically impaired, the cause-of-death can be found elsewhere.
Dialogue of the deaf: Any association between tasers and fatal outcomes are by chance, taser advocates argue. A causal relationship, critics respond, acknowledging that the taser may well not have been the sole cause of death. But then it is not the real cause, the other side hurls back. Yes, it is! Medical research is not about finding “sole causes” but “multiple causes” – and they are all causal. Prove the taser caused death in a court-of-law! challenge the taser proponents, knowing it is extremely hard to prove this “beyond a reasonable doubt”, since the autopsy has failed to identify the taser as a cause-of-death. The taser leaves no bio-trace, it’s under the medical examiner’s radar.
Meanwhile, more people, typically men with substantial mental health issues, sometimes combined with long-term drug-abuse, and very rarely “hardened criminals”, are dying shortly after they are tasered.
Incomplete: This list of post-taser deaths is certainly less than complete, but not, I believe, significantly so. Taser deaths are “news”, and cannot be easily camouflaged. Police sometimes fail to mention the use of tasers in initial reporting, but this usually emerges from downloading data from the tasers. In brief, I believe the taser table is as close to the total number of deaths as we are likely to get.
Transparency: In the incident-summary last column in each row I provide the principle source of our information. I encourage cross-checking information by clicking on the links. To find out more about any specific “case”, and potential updates, the best procedure is to enter the deceased’s name and taser into the Google search box.
Global perspective: These data may appear to look “American”, rather than global. All but 5 deaths in the Table and the addendum have occurred in the USA. This is not because of any failure to track deaths outside the United States – it reflects the global reality: about 90% of taser discharges and deaths and 80% of taser adoptions have consistently been on US soil, since the taser was first deployed by US law enforcement agencies in the early ‘90s. Foreign taser markets are currently expanding but with far more restrictions on usage than in the USA. TASER International may be global in name and marketing, but it is the home market that accounts for the bulk of taser sales and use (and, critics would argue, abuse).
Still controversial? The deaths reported here are, I believe, very worrying. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have frequently sought to tame taser use, in the United States as elsewhere. The families of victims are too often left in a perplexed grief, not knowing why their Loved One died.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) recently (in November 2014) issued a statement that is was “appalled at the number of reported deaths after the use of electrical discharge weapons” urging that “electrical discharge weapons [be] used exclusively in extreme and limited situations – where there is a real and immediate threat to life or risk of serious injury – as a substitute for lethal weapons and by trained law enforcement personnel only. … The Committee urges the State party [the Federal Government] to provide more stringent instructions to law enforcement personnel entitled to use electric discharge weapons, and to strictly monitor and supervise their use through mandatory reporting and review of each use.” Read More…
Empty words on deaf ears, apparently, in the US law-enforcement community.
Reported deaths following taser use by law-enforcement officers,
January 1st 2014 to December 22nd 2014 (N = 44)
|Date of death||Name||Age||Sex||City, Sate, Country||Summary of incident|
|2014/12/22||Name not released||?||M||Newcastle, Staffordshire, UK||Police respond to report of burglary, occupants had left building, one man is left, Police taser him (circumstances unclear), taken to police-car, becomes “unresponsive”, dies before reaching hospital. [link]|
|2014/12/02||William Mark Jones||50||M||Robeson County, NORTH CAROLINA||Man “behaving erratically” (Police) in the road, is rapidly tasered by police (who decline to elaborate), hospitalized and dies soon after. [link]|
|2014/11/26||Daniel Saulsbury||39||M||Fort Bragg, CALIFORNIA||Man with a history of multiple arrests, drug and psychiatric problems flees Police to avoid arrest on suspicion of robbery: throwing rocks at a man then taking his diaper bag, is tasered 4 times, pulled from police-car, hits head on ground, held face-down on the ground, medical distress, EMS resuscitation ineffective, dies. [link]|
|2014/11/22||Jennifer Bond||?||F||Crittenden, KENTUCKY||Disorderly conduct call at gas station, “Suspect resisted arrest” (Police), is tasered, put into police car, tries to kick out windows, medical emergency, dies a few hours later in hospital. [link]|
|2014/10/31||Jamie Garcia||35||M||Salinas, CALIFORNIA||Man struggles with 5 officers, “likely high on cocaine” (Police), single taser discharge (Police), taken to hospital, later pronounced dead. [link]|
|2014/10/27||Daniel Tyson||30||M||Hollywood, FLORIDA||Police respond to “erratic behavior” call in housing unit, suspect walking around naked, (Witnesses: “Talking to trees”; Neighbours: He was in psychiatric crisis), hits officer on head with unidentified object, officer injured, suspect tasered, died shortly after admission to hospital. [link] [link]|
|2014/10/14||Balantine Mbegbu||65||M||Phoenix, ARIZONA||Police answer 911 call about disturbance, suspect (of Nigerian origin), force entry into man’s house, he objects (Wife’s account)and becomes physical with officers, spills hot liquid on and kicks officer in groin, is tasered, medical distress, first aid, ambulance to hospital, dies 3 hours after being tasered. [link]|
|2014/10/13||Macario Cisneros Garcia||54||M||Atascosa County, TEXAS||2 versions: Police: Victim refuses to comply with officer’s demand to stop for traffic violation, enters driveway, puts hand in his pocket and swings at deputy, is handcuffed and walks back to police car, collapses, EMS take him to hospital, dies shortly after. Family: Altercation in his own front yard, Police mistake congestive heart failure for combative behavior, taser him twice, is transported to hospital, dies within 3 hours of being tasered. [link] [link]|
|2014/10/06||Iretha Lilly||37||F||McLennan County, TEXAS||Woman is jailed for positive drug-testing during sentencing for shoplifting, unruly during proceedings, is tasered, becomes unresponsive, is hospitalized dies about 12 hours later. [link]|
|2014/10/04||Lashano J. Gilbert||31||M||New London, CONNECTICUT||Police: Suspect (graduate in medicine from Bahamas, just arrived in USA from Canada), attempts to enter car through window, is tasered, hospitalized, released and placed in cell, charged with attempted carjacking, struggles with police, takes off trousers, police fear suicide attempt, tasered a 2nd time, re-hospitalized, dies 6 hours later. Family: No known history of mental illness or drug addiction. [link]|
|2014/10/02||Michael Daryle Rose||49||M||Coconino County, ARIZONA||Man calls Police to drive him to hospital due to his paranoia & hypertension, refuses help from EMS, Police arrive, he becomes belligerent with police, is tasered in calf, transported to jail (not hospital), becomes more compliant but stops breathing, neither police nor EMS able to resuscitate him, dies. [link]|
|2014/09/28||Oliver Jarrod Gregoire||26||M||Chambers County, TEXAS||Police taser “very excited” man leaving woman’s house he had invaded, he falls to ground, rips off taser probes, is tasered again, handcuffed, becomes unresponsive, CPR, pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. [link]|
|2014/09/26||Name not released||?||M||Hermantown, MINNESOTA||Police respond to call about man in “emotional crisis”, he arrives in his truck, “screaming to be shot” (Police), holds hands up, doesn’t obey order to get down from truck cabin, is tasered (“to de-escalate situation” - Police), handcuffed, medical emergency, hospitalized, where he dies a week later. [link]|
|2014/09/20||Daniel C. Satre||43||M||Ballston Spa, NEW YORK||Police respond to call about “disorderly and suspicious” (Police) man walking down street, screaming at cars, is combative with the Police, is tasered, continues struggling, is tasered again, handcuffed, unresponsive, CPR, dies in hospital 2 hours after being tasered [link]|
|2014/09/13||Ricky Deangelo Hinkle||47||M||Jefferson County, ALABAMA||Jail inmate (for parole violation) “becomes combative” (Police) with officers, is tasered, falls over, becomes unresponsive, is pronounced dead on arrival at hospital [link]|
|2014/09/05||Name not released||34||M||Paris (2nd arrondissement) FRANCE||Police are called to hotel, where a “demented” man (Police term, he was known to police) is being disruptive, he is tasered twice, hospitalized, dies. Initial autopsy: He died of drug overdose, causing pulmonary edema and asphyxia, creating fatal heart dysrhythmia. Police exonerated. [link]|
|2014/08/29||Michael John O’Connell||44||M||Littlefield, ARIZONA||Police stop motorcyclist for rear-licence-plate violation, he flees into desert, hides in bushes, “becomes combative” (Police), is tasered twice, stops breathing, CPR, EMS arrive, dies at scene. [link, link]|
|2014/08/24||Timothy Shad Griffis||35||M||Lake City, FLORIDA||Physically healthy unarmed man resists arrest, Police: “He threatened to kill us” (verbal aggression), is tasered, experiences serious breathing difficulties, medical distress, dies shortly after arrival at hospital. [link]|
|2014/08/20||Arvel Douglas Williams||31||M||Harford, MARYLAND||Police: Try to pull over pickup-truck driver, pursuit, driver crashes into police car, tries to flee, is tasered, then talks to officers before entering medical emergency, convulsions, dies 2 hours after hospitalization. Police: “white powder” found in pickup [link]|
|2014/08/17||Levon Leroy Love||44||M||San Antonio, TEXAS||Man is apprehended by police after passing out in his jeep, found naked from waist down, resists EMS attempts to put him in gurney, gets back in jeep, drives off, crashes into a pickup, fails to calm down, is tasered and sedated, shortly before he dies in hospital. [link] [link]|
|2014/08/12||Dante Parker||36||M||Victorville, CALIFORNIA||Suspect cycles away from Police following a reported break-in, becomes “uncooperative and combative” (Police) when they try to stop him, is tasered “multiple times”, handcuffed, sweats profusely, medical distress, is hospitalized, dies shortly after. [link]|
|2014/08/08||Jose Paulino Jr.||38||M||Tamaqua, PENNSYLVANIA||Man, “belligerent and erratic” (Police) at gas station after midnight, is tasered “numerous times” (Police), medical distress, dies in ambulance before reaching hospital. [link]|
|2014/07/25||Timothy Rice||33||M||Austin, TEXAS||Police respond to attempted-suicide call, Police say he threatened them with a tomahawk, is shot with bean-bag shotgun, then with taser, EMS intervention, dies about 36 hours after hospitalized. [link]|
|2014/07/19||Francisco Rocha||41||M||Chicago, ILLINOIS||Fighting two other men, man is combative with police who intervene, he is tasered, medical distress, declared dead at hospital less than an hour after being tasered. [link]|
|2014/07/12||Ron Hewett||51||M||New Hanover, NORTH CAROLINA||Former county sheriff is held in jail for firearms offences and death threats against family, altercation in jail, he is tasered and dies a few minutes later. [link]|
|2014/07/08||25||M||San Antonio, TEXAS||Man runs from police after confrontation in shop, is pepper-sprayed and tasered – with no apparent effect –, he is subdued & handcuffed, EMS find insulin irregularity, dies in hospital 90 minutes after police altercation. [link]|
|2014/07/05||Ennis Labaux||37||M||Laplace, LOUISIANA||Following serious domestic dispute, man fights with 2 officers attempting to arrest him, they taser him but “taser was ineffective” (Police); he stops breathing and is declared dead on arrival at hospital. Family says he was shocked 37 times in less than a minutes and left face-down on the grass. [link] [link] [link]|
|2014/06/20||Dominic Graffeo||56||M||Chelsea, Boston, MASSACHUSETTS||Mentally-disturbed man barricades himself inside his apartment, Building manager calls Police, they see he has injured himself, force entry, taser him twice (probe and drive-stun modes), he turns purple, stops breathing and dies. Police suspect drug overdose. [link]|
|2014/06/08||Daniel Best||34||M||Gilbert, ARIZONA||Naked man, disturbing neighbors at 3:30 am, resists police arrest, tasered “several times”, medical distress in custody, is transported to hospital where he dies... [link]|
|2014/06/04||Name not released||--||M||Burnaby, BRITISH COLUMBIA, Canada||Agitated man is tasered following domestic dispute; taser “had no effect”, is arrested, medical distress and died shortly after [link]|
|2014/05/24||Carlos Ocana||54||M||Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA||Homeless, mentally disturbed man climbs billboard, refuses to come down, is tasered, and falls to death (Police try to grab him, he misses the airbag below) [link]|
|2014/05/14||George King||19||M||Baltimore, MARYLAND||Unarmed and heavily medicated African-American foster-youth is tasered in hospital 5 times in drive-stun mode (direct to body), goes into coma and dies a week later in hospital [link]|
Addendum: Tasered, then died: Death due to other causes
|2014-12-16 TASERED, THEN SHOT||Adam Padilla||34||M||Bernalillo County, NEW MEXICO||Man is pulled over for multiple traffic violations. Police interpret what he says as intent of “death-by-cop”, man shows Police his gun in its holster, is tasered multiple times, then, one second later, shot 5 times by same police-officer, including once to head. [link]|
|2014-11-24 TASERED, THEN SHOT||Leonardo Marquette Little||33||M||Jacksonville, FLORIDA||Traffic stop for expired tag, man gives different names, pulled out of car, tasered once, falls down, tasered twice more “with no effect” (Police), he “grabs officer’s taser” (Police), is then shot twice and dies on the scene. [link]|
|2014-10-11 TASERED 3 TIMES AFTER SEVERE SELF-INJURY||Arlindo Furtado||41||M||Cardiff, Wales, UNITED KINGDOM||Ex-prisoner is denied anti-psychotic medication on release from prison, no psychiatric after-care despite parents’ requests. 2-hour siege by armed police of man in house armed with knife, injures himself, police break in, 3 separate officers each taser him once, ambulance to hospital where dies a few hours later. [link] Police say he was tasered after he had fatally wounded himself. [link]|
|2014-02-03 TASER MISSES, DIED OF SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS||Name not released (Chinese)||51||M||Toronto, Ontario, CANADA||Seriously suicidal man fails to drop knife after substantial self-harm, police discharge taser, miss target, man retreats to balcony, climbs over and jumps to death. Independent Ontario watchdog Special Investigations Unit absolves Police and concludes death self-inflicted. [link]|
Date of death: Deaths following taser-use since 1 January 2014 are sequenced by date, starting with the most recent. The date may occasionally be approximate, always accurate to within 2 days.
Name: A few fatalities’ names are not identified (in italics), meaning the police did not release the deceased’s name, very likely at the family’s request.
It is too easy to commodify the victims of these altercations. I use a bold type-face to emphasize the individuality of each person who died during or following these altercations with the police. The deceased must never be treated as “cases” or “statistics” – they are people whose lives were tragically terminated in these incidents. They are very unfortunate victims of something, whether or not the taser can be singled out in a court of law or on the medical examiner’s dissection table as the cause of their deaths.
Age: Age may not be a core variable, but media reports typically report it, so I include it in the Table. Far more important are national origin or race (NOR), but these are not cited here, because there is too much “missing data” (more than 50% of cases). These data as presented here do not therefore relate to charges of racial/ethnic discrimination or profiling by the police.
Sex: As in previous years, people who were“Tasered, then died” reflect overall taser-use statistics: Overwhelmingly, it is men who are targeted and men who die. Only two women were “tasered, then died” in the Table: Texan Iretha Lilly who died in hospital just a few hours after being tasered on October 6th, 2014 and Jennifer Bond, tasered and who died in Crittenden, North Kentucky on 24 November 2014.
Location: Municipality and State in USA, where approximately 80% of all tasers™ are deployed and some 90% of reported deaths have occurred. Equivalent jurisdiction (county, province, etc.) in other countries. For deaths reported outside the United Sates, the country is CAPITALIZED. Through Google Alerts by country and scanning national dailies, I believe nearly all non-US deaths are included.
Summary of circumstances: These summaries are based on initial reports and should not interpreted as definitive. They are “raw versions” of what occurred, before any official version is released – which is not necessarily more veridical. In fact, the information is rarely modified radically as the tragic episode gets more attention, including full coroner’s reports. For more details on each case, see the [link] in the last column, a Google-search of the deceased person (adding the word taser), or posts under the deceased’s name in the GlobalShock.org search-box (there will be a delay before these latter are available on-line).
The data presented in the Table are based on articles published by local crime-beat journalists, or local TV-News coverage of each case contained in the Table. These journalists are of course in no way responsible for any errors in the text or the Table. Special thanks to a colleague in British Columbia who contributed to collating the data. I am a Montreal-based social psychologist and own the GlobalShock.org website, an open-access archive of published articles on “taser issues” (there are some 2500 cross-indexed files on the site, covering all the controversial issues surrounding tasers).
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