Amnesty International, USA
5 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10001
RE: Tasing Violations of Human Rights
Dear Sara Bennett:
Please convey to our friends at Amnesty International that on Friday, April 24, the AfroSpear will declare this, “A Day of Blogging for Justice - Standing up against the pre-trial electrocution”, internationally.
It coincide the latest taser death of Michael Jacobs, a mentally ill black man, in my home town of Fort Worth, Texas.
We have a strong local base of support. On today, I had a chance to meet with the Fort Worth Chief of Police Jeffrey Halstead, and community activists representing the African-American community and the family.
We have waged a battle against Taser International, Inc., which started out an unregulated weapons manufacturer. Finally, after the rising sales of taser weapons and rising number of casualties, and numerous court defenses against lawsuits, Taser International finally conceded to issue some Product Warnings.
The warnings are adequate enough to immunize the company against wrongful death liabilities. If police departments around the country use the weapon, as it was designed to be used, in theory, there should be no fatalities.
There has been video footage upon footage of taser abuse and death. The AfroSpear has documented the history in the movement to stop the use and abuse of tasers, and the recordings of actual deaths, where subjects were tasered repeatedly until they expired.
The taser death of Michael Jacobs fit the profile of “Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome”, one of the product label warnings. Because Jacobs’ mental illness, he was more susceptible to dying after a taser shot and retrained.
Signs of Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome include: extreme agitation, bizarre behavior, inappropriate nudity, imperviousness to pain, paranoia, exhaustive exertion, “superhuman” strength, hallucinations, sweating profusely, etc.
The Product Warning label includes, among other things:
Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome Awareness. If a subject is exhibiting signs or behaviors that are associated with Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome, consider combining use of a TASER device with immediate physical restraint techniques and medical assistance. Signs of Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome include: extreme agitation, bizarre behavior, inappropriate nudity, imperviousness to pain, paranoia, exhaustive exertion, “superhuman” strength, hallucinations, sweating profusely, etc.
Muscle Contraction-Related Risks. The TASER device can cause strong muscle contractions that may result in physical exertion or athletic-type injuries. In certain instances this may be serious for some people, such as those with pre-existing conditions and/or special susceptibilities. This may also occur in instances Sudden in-custody death results from a complex set of physiological and psychological conditions characterized by irrational behavior, extreme exertion, and potentially fatal changes in blood chemistry.
The description of Michael Jacobs’ death is classic to the definition above of Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome.
Product Safety should be an integral part of every police department’s policy on training and deployment of tasers. And when the product safety instructions are ignored, who is liable? And when training is inadequate, who bears the responsibility of a wrongful death?
In the case above, the liability stops at the City of Fort Worth. For wrongful death, they must pay, and pay dearly. Of course, the City holds the Chief of Police responsible, and so does the community.
We are watching and we are blogging.