When most people think of tasers, they envision the law enforcement weapon as a harsh but non-lethal way to subdue an adversarial criminal. But statistics suggest that our perceptions of tasers as non-lethal weapons may not align with reality.
According to the ACLU, over 500 Americans have been killed with tasers since 2001. In most cases, victims' hearts cannot handle the intense electric shock and they die from cardiac arrest.
In a May 2012 ACLU article titled “Tasers No Longer a Non-Lethal Alternative for Law Enforcement”, writer Rebecca McCray details the overzealous use of Tasers by law enforcement officials.
“Tasers cannot so simply be categorized as 'non-lethal,’" she writes. “In addition, there are far too many instances in which officers have impulsively deployed Tasers against children, pregnant women, and the mentally ill, even though the victims posed no real danger to either the officers or anyone else.
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“The new evidence that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest and death, coupled with the disturbing trend of officers using Tasers in flagrantly unnecessary situations, makes it all the more troubling that states do not uniformly or consistently govern or regulate officers’ use of Tasers."
Yesterday, Reason reported on the latest seemingly unnecessary instance of taser use by law enforcement.
Seventeen year old Texas high school student Noe Nino de Rivera has been in a medically-induced coma since November 20th. He was put in a coma by doctors after high school security officials caused him permanent brain damage by tasing him.
According to court documents, Rivera witnessed a fight break out between two female students at his school. School resource officer Randy McMillan called for backup to help diffuse the fight, but Rivera feared the situation would escalate further before backup arrived. Rivera tried to intervene in the fight himself.
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After intervening, McMillan told him to back away from the girls. Court documents say Rivera backed away with his hands up in the air. Then, McMillan tased him. Rivera fell to the ground and slammed his head against the floor, causing permanent damage to his brain.
His family has now filed a lawsuit against, McMillan, the school district, and the county. The lawsuit alleges McMillan used excessive force in tasing Rivera.
"It is insane to me that he decided to Tase this young man in response to a young man breaking up a fight," Rivera’s attorney Adam Loewy said. "If you're gonna put a police officer in a high school then you need to be able to deal with teenagers.”