A South Dakota mom and her boyfriend are suing the former police chief and four other officers from the city of Pierre, after the officers used a Taser on her 8-year-old daughter.
Dawn Stenstrom and her boyfriend Bobby Jones say police used excessive force Oct. 4, 2013, when they used the stun gun on the girl.
CNN reports the four officers were called to the family’s home that day by a babysitter who said the young girl was threatening to harm herself. Police responded and found the girl, identified only as “L.M.J.” in court documents, at the house with a kitchen paring knife her hand.
“Within seconds,” an officer fired his Taser at the 70-pound girl, the lawsuit alleges.
“The force of the electricity shot through her body, lifted her, and threw her against a wall,” the court document continues. “After the officers had stunned (the girl) into high voltage submission, they pulled the fish-hook like Taser darts from her chest, gave her emergency medical attention, bandaged the holes left by the razor-sharp hooks, and called the ambulance.”
Stenstrom and her daughter are members of the Rosebud Sioux tribe. They have since moved from Pierre and back onto the tribal reservation.
She and Jones are seeking at least $100,000 in damages, plus punitive damages and "other relief as the court shall consider to be fair and equitable.”
The girl’s biological father is not a party to the lawsuit.
The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation conducted a two-month investigation into the incident last year and ruled in December that the officers had acted appropriately.
“Given the circumstances facing the officer at the time, it appears from the report that deploying a Taser was the best viable way to defuse the situation,” Wendy Kloeppner, the Hughes County state's attorney, said in a statement.
Dana Hanna, the couple’s attorney who filed the lawsuit, disputes that.
“Four trained police officers surrounding a 70-pound, 8-year-old Indian girl,” should have been able to disarm the girl another way, she said.
Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Cyril Scott told the Indian Country Today Media Network that he thought the family was justified in filing the lawsuit.
“We tell our children not to do violence and to not be a part of violence, but if they get into trouble they are subjected to this violence. They are treating our children like they are hardened criminals nowadays,” he said.
The girl is reportedly receiving mental and emotional counseling from a child counselor as a result of the incident.
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