Saturday, April 11, 2009
Warren — A Detroit teenager who police say fled a traffic stop Friday died after being subdued with a Taser. He is the second Michigan teen to die following a Taser stun in less than a month.
Warren Police say they don’t know why the 15-year-old bailed out of a Dodge Stratus he was riding in during the stop on Eight Mile near Schoenherr, leading officers on a half-block chase that ended in an abandoned house on Pelkey in Detroit.
The car was stopped for having an expired license plate.
In the scuffle, officers shocked the teen one time with a Taser, police said. Shortly after, he became unresponsive and died.
Warren Police defended their call to shock the teen, who they later learned suffered from asthma and took antidepressant drugs. “It’s an unfortunate situation,” Warren Deputy Police Commissioner Jere Green said. “Our officers are shaken by it; they are upset. They are humans just like anybody else.”
The officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave. The findings of an investigation into the incident will be submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office, which is standard procedure for such incidents.
The Detroiter, whose name wasn’t released Friday, is the second Michigan teen in less than a month to die after being zapped by a Taser. Bay City Police tasered 15-year-old Brett Elder last month after he tried to fight with them. He died shortly thereafter.
Tasers are handheld devices that deliver about 50,000 volts of electricity to temporarily paralyze their target.
More than 11,000 law enforcement and correctional agencies in the United States use Tasers, according to Amnesty International, which has been one of the most vocal critics of the device.
Since 2001, more than 330 people in the United States have died after being shocked by Tasers, said the human rights group. “Amnesty International acknowledges the importance of developing nonlethal or ‘less lethal’ force options” by police, the group said in a December report on Tasers and Taser-related deaths. “However, Amnesty International has serious concerns about the use of electro-shock devices in law enforcement, both as regards their safety and potential for misuse.”
Green said his officers followed department policy.
“Research indicates it (a Taser) wouldn’t cause death in itself. It’s a nonlethal use of force,” Green said. “Everything we did was within policies and guidelines. All of our actions were appropriate.”
Dr. Stephen Gasper, a senior resident in emergency medicine at Beaumont Hospital of Royal Oak, said it’s very rare that Tasers cause a death.
“Usually there’s something else going on,” he said.
An autopsy will be conducted as early as today for the Detroit teen.
Green, of the Warren Police Department, said that inside the home, officers tried to place the teen under arrest. After using the device, they noticed he was unresponsive and started CPR until Warren Fire Department officials arrived. He was transferred to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Warren and was pronounced dead at 10:17 a.m. The teen was unarmed, police say.
The 19-year-old driver of the car the teen was riding in, along with a 37-year-old passenger, were questioned by police and released.
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