- Title: Shock Tactics, Part 1: A 911 plea for help, a Taser shot, and a death
- Date: 19th August 2017
- Summary: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) RON HONBERG, SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR FOR NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS, SAYING: "For lots of reasons, Tasers should be an absolute last resort, not a first resort." (SOUNDBITE) (English) RON HONBERG, SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR FOR NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS, SAYING: "Particularly if you're dealing with someone who is already agitated, who may be, whose heart may be racing at that point, or who may have other co-morbid health problems, that can really be a deadly combination."
- Embargoed: 2nd September 2017 19:54
- Keywords: Taser CEO Taser International Rick Smith mental illness Axon Enterprise Taser police Theresa Davidonis NAMI Ron Honberg mental health Taser stun gun MacAdam Mason Schrock 911 Taser mental health
- Location: ONTARIO + SAN DIEGO + OAK GLEN, CALIFORNIA / GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND / WASHINGTON, D.C. / STANFORD, CALIFORNIA / COWETA COUNTY, GEORGIA / SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA / THETFORD, VERMONT / NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- City: ONTARIO + SAN DIEGO + OAK GLEN, CALIFORNIA / GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND / WASHINGTON, D.C. / STANFORD, CALIFORNIA / COWETA COUNTY, GEORGIA / SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA / THETFORD, VERMONT / NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Crime/Law/Justice,Crime
- Reuters ID: LVA0076UUA69Z
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Nancy Schrock knew the signs well. Her husband Tom had struggled with depression and occasional drug problems throughout their 35-year marriage.
And his manic episodes had grown worse after their oldest son died from a heroin overdose.
Police had visited the family's home near Los Angeles more than a dozen times.
Typically, the father of three would be taken to the hospital, medicated, and sent home after 72 hours.
But not on this June night in 2012.
In never before seen footage obtained exclusively by Reuters, Schrock was stunned twice with a Taser by a responding police officer.
He collapsed and died at the hospital seven days later.
The Schrocks sued the police department and the weapon's manufacturer, Taser International claiming the stun guns were inherently dangerous and the police, inadequately trained.
The city settled for $500,000.
The case against Taser, which recently changed its name to Axon Enterprise, was dismissed in June.
Both sides declined to say whether there was a settlement.
In a first-of-its-kind examination, Reuters has documented 1,005 incidents in the U.S., nearly all since the early 2000s, in which people died after police stunned them with Tasers, typically in incidents that also involved other force.
In at least 153 autopsy reports, Reuters found the Taser was cited as a cause or a contributing factor in the death.
Many of the casualties are among society's vulnerable.
A quarter of the people who died after being stunned were suffering from a mental health breakdown or neurological disorder.
In nine of every 10 incidents, the person who died was unarmed.
More than 100 of the fatal encounters began with a 911 call for help during a medical emergency.
"For lots of reasons, Tasers should be an absolute last resort, not a first resort... particularly if you're dealing with someone who is already agitatedâ€¦ that can really be a deadly combination," said Ron Honberg, senior policy advisor for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Taser insists its weapons are almost never to blame when there's a fatality.
At an April forum at Stanford University, Taser CEO Rick Smith said the stun guns have been responsible for around 20 deaths.
"I'm not telling you that Tasers haven't killed people, but I think people tend to jump in cases where you can pretty strongly exclude it. And they yet still say well since Taser was the only force used by police, therefore it was the thing that caused the death," said Smith.
For years, the company has said the vast majority of victims died because of underlying health conditions, drug use or other police force used along with the Taser.
Smith declined to comment for this story.
Tasers are pistol-like weapons that fire electrified darts, delivering a paralyzing charge.
When Taser designed its weapon, records show the company expected it would be used on people with mental illness.
The company touted the weapons as a relatively safe way to control people suffering a mental health crisis.
But in recent years, Taser has been more cautionary.
In 2013, the company issued revised training materials advising police to "avoid using a Taser on a person who is actually or perceived to be mentally ill."
But that guidance was not included in the company's official eight-page packet of warnings to law enforcement.
Those warnings, which remain in effect today, never mention mental illness.
In a telephone interview, company spokesman Steve Tuttle said Taser's warnings only serve as a guideline for law enforcement and it's up to the police on how, when and where officers deploy the weapons.
Theresa Davidonis' boyfriend MacAdam Mason, who suffered from mental illness, died after he was stunned with a Taser by police outside his Vermont home.
Family members say he had suffered a seizure.
"MacAdam had his hands up in the air and he shot him and MacAdam's eyes rolled in back of his head and he just went down and that was it, and I was screaming you killed him," said Davidonis.
Mason's death helped spur the state of Vermont to adopt one of the first laws of its kind that limits the circumstances under which police can deploy Tasers and sets training standards for officers who carry them.
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