Tasers were first introduced to police departments as non-lethal compliance weapons to be used to subdue non-compliant/dangerous suspects, but stun guns are proving to be very lethal, killing hundreds of people.  Groups including Amnesty International have documented 500 police-initiated Taser deaths between 2001 and 2012 in the United States.  That’s, on average, one death per week.  One of the most recent incidents to make the news happened in Miami Beach, where a local artist and tagger Israel Hernandez-Llach was tasered in the chest on August 7th by officer Jorge Mercado.  Guidelines state that stun guns are not to be used in places such as the chest.  Mercado and several other officers chased the 18-year-old after he was caught vandalizing an abandoned restaurant.  Witnesses reported that the officers chased him for about 10 minutes, trapped him, and then tasered him.  After he was dying in the streets, they high-fived each other and laughed over top of him.  Mercado is a 13-year veteran.  Members of Miami’s art community have condemned the tasering death of the award-winning artist whose work has been recognized by U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz and exhibited locally.

Amnesty International’s report on Taser deaths found that 90% of all people killed by a Taser are not armed.  Tasers and other Conducted Energy Devices shoot two metal barbs into a person’s body, where they deliver 50,000 volts, incapacitating a person’s neuromuscular system.  The experience is extremely painful.  Recent deaths show a disturbing trend of possible government abuse of power.

Allen Kephart died in 2011 after being stopped for a traffic violation in California where three officers shocked him with Tasers 16 times.  In that same year, in Florida, Adam Spencer Johnson was shocked to death four times in bursts lasting as long as 30 seconds.  Even former Boca Raton police chief and Taser expert Andrew Scott called the length of shocking “way too much.”  No officers have been charged in any cases.  A few months ago, in Illinois, Jersey Green was shocked to death after he was caught jumping on the hoods of cars.  Amnesty International and other groups are calling for Tasers to have more rules of use and for the relaxed era to end.  In the summer of 2011, Taser International awarded a family $10 million in a settlement of a case arising out of the death of a 17-year-old, who was shocked to death by police in Charlotte.  Charlotte taxpayers paid the family $625,000 in a settlement as well.

Lethal electric shock varies from person to person.  The physical history of a person, where they are shocked, for how long they are shocked, and at what frequency they are shocked all play a role in how badly damaged the person becomes.

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