Friday, November 14, 2008

Case Study: The Death of Darryl Turner

Amnesty International is tracking taser abuse as a human rights abuse issue in the United States. Since June 2001, more than 320 individuals in the United States have died after being shocked by police TASERs. Most of those individuals were not carrying a weapon. Amnesty International is concerned that TASERs are being used as tools of routine force -- rather than as an alternative to firearms.

They recently posted a case study about the taser-related death of Darryl Turner.

Darryl Turner, age 17, died in March 2008 after he was shocked by an officer from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina. Turner, who worked in a grocery store, reportedly went home for lunch with two snacks for which he had not paid. His mother told him to return to the store and admit what he had done.

When he returned to work he got into an argument with the store manager. A store video recording of the incident shows that Turner entered the store's customer service area and pushed an object off the counter. He walked out but came back into the room and pointed at the manager. A police officer entered the room with his TASER, which he immediately fired at Turner, who was standing behind the counter with his hands at his side. There was no visible attempt by the officer to talk to the teenager or calm the situation. With the TASER probes in his chest, Turner moved past the officer, after which he reportedly collapsed out of view of the camera.

Downloaded data from the officer's TASER shows that he held the trigger down for 37 continuous seconds until Turner collapsed -- and shocked him again when he was on the floor. Attempts to revive Turner were unsuccessful. The coroner later ruled cause of death to be a fatal disturbance of the heart rhythm due to stress and the TASER shocks. A police investigation subsequently ruled that the officer's initial decision to use the TASER was within departmental procedures, but that holding down the trigger was not justified. The officer was suspended for five days.

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