Another Taser Death

Police departments throughout the world purchased Tasers as a safe alternative to disable suspects, only they are not safe.

Newsnet 5 reports the death of 24-year-old Benedictine graduate Kevin Piskura. Piskura, a 2006 Miami graduate, was tasered after getting into an argument with Oxford police after a friend was escorted from a bar. Raw video feed documents the incident.

Tasers are meant to be used in lieu of deadly force. Arguably they are less lethal than guns, but the increasing statistics of death after taser use against unarmed individuals, reveals that they are used far too casually.

I am moved to write this because of a comment my son made at a community carnival last summer. Wandering around among all the children, adolescents, parents and grandparents were members of our local police force. I noticed something on their belts that I couldn’t identify – my son told me they were tasers. As a criminal justice major he knew the statistics, and risk, of their use. He told me; I was surprised, but I didn’t do anything. I didn’t take any action and every time there is a taser death or injury I feel guilty.

No more. Their use is too commonplace and too dangerous. Tasers are more dangerous to people who have heart conditions, on certain drugs or flooded with adrenaline. I have tremendous respect for our police forces, but in a situation of a bar fight, where you have a young man who is upset and unarmed, the risk of use is simply and completely unacceptable.

Please write to your elected officials to speak out against taser use. Ask that taser use be banned pending further study into these unexplained deaths.

To Kevin Piskura’s family – my deepest condolences. The price of bad judgment should not be death.

Understand the risk:

Nobody really knows exactly why these people are dying, we only know that people are dying after they are Tasered,” said Cox. “When we started doing our first study, 70 people had died in the United States. Now it’s nearly 300 people who have died in the United States. They’re Tasered and then they die. We’re calling for a study to find out exactly why.

Cardiac experts have warned against taser use:

When 50,000 volts of electricity from a Taser surge across the body, it can instantly incapacitate a person — more safely than a blow from a police baton or a blast of pepper spray, its manufacturer contends.

But cardiologists are concerned that, in certain cases, the device might also interrupt the rhythm of the human heart, throwing it into a potentially fatal chaotic state known as ventricular fibrillation.

Rather than pump blood in sequence through its four chambers, a heart in ventricular fibrillation writhes uncontrollably, wiggling like a bag of worms. It is a common cause of sudden death.

Cardiologists also know that the window in which a jolt of electricity can halt a heart expands significantly when a patient is treated with certain drugs, or when the body is flooded with the fear hormone, adrenaline. Patients with underlying heart problems are also more vulnerable to the condition.

Amnesty International spoke out against taser use.

The degree of tolerable risk involving Tasers, as with all weapons and restraint devices, must be weighed against the threat posed. It is self-evident that Tasers are less injurious than firearms where officers are confronted with a serious threat that could escalate to deadly force. However, the vast majority of people who have died after being struck by Tasers have been unarmed men who did not pose a threat of death or serious injury when they were electro-shocked. In many cases they appear not to have posed a significant threat at all.

An excellent summary of Kevin’s story and related links is available at Mahalo.

From Truth Not Tasers a list of the dead in North America.

Taser use is banned in New Jersey, even by police. Thank you to Twisted Family Antics.

Wikipedia article on Tasers.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Becky
    Apr 25, 2008 @ 21:36:19

    That’s incredibly frightening. I’ve never seen one before, but I do know the risks.


  2. pamajama
    Apr 26, 2008 @ 17:53:09

    Tasers are already illegal in New Jersey.


  3. pamajama
    Apr 26, 2008 @ 17:53:39

    P.S. Duh — I mean to add — even for police.


  4. musings
    Apr 27, 2008 @ 15:00:52

    TASR, the trading symbol of the corporation which was so profitable when it marketed these devices to law enforcement, can be tracked over the years.

    The promotion probably characterized it as non-lethal. Many news stories showed cops who would use them being tased to show that while someone fell down, they got up after a few moments. Lost in the whole story is that fact that a large percentage of the elderly population (and for all I know some younger people), wear pacemakers because of the dangers of fibrillation. But they got there because their hearts incrementally became damaged.

    Autopsies on young soldiers during Vietnam showed that cardiac damage is more gradual than sudden, and there is already damage in the twenties in many, many men (and probably women too).

    The people choosing to use Taser are not physiologists, they are not rocket scientists. But Taser is a company which does something to the body the way a drug would. I am sure they would hate to be regulated like a drug company, but consider that they are paralyzing the body the way some anaethetic procedures are done only in hospitals, by licensed physicians.

    The device is inherently dangerous, and it has killed when the intention of law enforcement was only to take control of the victim/arrestee.

    If we don’t stop them, they will just chalk it up to bad luck when someone dies. You know how police using deadly force of bullets can be acquitted. This is more casual, but sometimes as deadly.

    It would be a good thing to have some very big lawsuits. Of course those who profit from these devices and others like them that they do not want to have regulated, will scream bloody murder and swear that we need court reform.

    But I think I can harden my heart to the cries of a torturer. Time to take their little house apart.


  5. Trackback: Yet Again - Another Taser Death « Five Husbands
  6. Trackback: The Tragic Death of Kevin Piskura - One Year Later the Taser Death March Continues « Five Husbands

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