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FREETOWN – An early morning standoff with a Walpole man ended peacefully after police shot him with an electric-shock device called a taser.
The man, an unidentified 26-year-old, was taken to an area hospital for a psychological evaluation after an unsuccessful suicide-by-cop attempt, police said.
State police got 17 calls from the disturbed man around starting 3 a.m., claiming he was armed with a gun and a knife and going to kill himself and any officer who dared to get near. He did not say where he was.
State police were able to find him, sitting in his car in the parking lot of Freetown Town Hall, by tracking his cell phone signal.
Four Freetown officers responded and were able to create a distraction, enabling Sgt. Elton Ashley to break a car window to taser the man.
“This was the first time that a Freetown officer has used a Taser since the department equipped its officers in April,” Chief Carlton Abbott said. “It was appropriately used and the crisis was resolved without serious injury.”
While tasers are in use in more than 1,700 law enforcement departments across the country, the tool is a new one for Massachusetts police officers. It was only in 2004 that Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law the use of stun-gun devices. Massachusetts and New Jersey were the only states not using them.
They haven’t been universally adopted within the Bay State. Locally, only Freetown, Raynham, Attleboro and Swansea use the devices. A Taunton officer said last night there were no plans to bring tasers to the city.
The “less-lethal” weapon is similar in shape to a handgun, but shoots two darts up to 21 feet at a target up to 35 feet away. The darts are connected to the taser by high-voltage insulated wire. Once fired, 15,000 volts pulse through the victim’s body, rendering them helpless for five seconds.
“It overrides the central nervous system,” said Lt. Barry Brewer, of the Attleboro Police Department. “You can no longer control your muscles.”
Because the taser’s use is considered not life threatening, it’s the preferred tool when dealing with mentally ill people.
A search of the man’s car turned up an empty bottle of anti-depressants. Once questioned, police said, he revealed that he had taken 30 of the pills throughout the day and was looking to commit suicide by having the officers shoot and kill him.