The Chula Vista Police Department is investigating the recent death of 29-year-old Jason Watts. Back in October 2018, Watts died after being subjected to a Taser in a confrontation outside of a 7-11, NBC San Diego reports. Unfortunately, this is just one of several cases being investigated in California.
Police departments present the weapon as a non-lethal alternative to guns and other firearms for subduing potential criminals. But, with 49 related deaths being reported in just the last year alone, is it as “safe” as they claim?
The Science Behind Tasers
When the prongs of this weapon attach to the victim, an initial shock establishes a current. After that, weaker electrical shocks are continually sent through the body. The shocks are supposed to incapacitate the victim by overloading the nervous system, affecting muscle control. This is the reason a person usually falls straight to the ground after being zapped.
It may, however, be affecting more than just muscles. Business Insider reports that the weapons can potentially affect memory shortly after the shock as well. For healthy adults, this is supposed to fade as time passes. But what if the victim suffers from health issues? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports a shock can be especially dangerous with conditions such as:
- A history of heart problems;
- Mental health issues; and
- Substance-use (alcohol or drug influence)
Neglect and Misuse
Cops won’t necessarily be able to recognize special conditions in the heat of the moment. What happens if a cop is not properly trained, or neglects to follow proper protocol? The result could potentially be fatal. One study published by the American Heart Association suggests misuse of such weapons can cause cardiac arrest or even death.
Taser-misuse is not as uncommon as you might think. Take, for example, the death of an 11-year-old in Cincinnati, Ohio. Last year, the young girl was subjected to a Taser shock in a shop-lifting altercation and died afterward. Her family was awarded $220,000 to settle an excessive force claim, according to Reuters. Was a Taser shock necessary?
An Ongoing Investigation
Reuters has documented around 1,081 deaths related to Tasers since its adoption in police departments. Some of these cases include reports of pepper spray or other means of force and restraint. In addition to Chula Vista, police departments in San Francisco and Los Angeles County are currently reviewing policies related to “stun-gun” usage.
If you are concerned about a situation in which you or a loved one were subjected to a Taser, call the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti: (888) 910-1304.