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Taser Death Lawsuit Results in $10M Award

A North Carolina jury has awarded $10 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against Taser International, Inc., which was filed by the family of a teen who died after being shocked with a Taser stun gun. 

The complaint was brought by Devoid Turner and Tammy Lou Fontenot, the parents of Darryl Turner, who was 17 when he died in a supermarket in Charlotte after being shot in the chest by a Taser Model X26 electronic control device on March 20, 2008.

According to the Taser death lawsuit, the manufacturer was negligent in failing to warn law enforcement that shooting their stun gun weapons into the chest of a subject could cause cardiac arrest.

Following trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, a federal jury awarded $10 million in damages.

Darryl Turner died after a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer shot him with his Taser in an attempt subdue him. Turner reportedly lunged at an officer responding to reports that he had been yelling and throwing things at a store manager.

The officer used the Taser to stun Turner for 37 seconds, after which he ceased moving. The officer stunned the unresponsive Turner again for five more seconds for refusing to put his hands behind his back. According to testimony by the Mecklenburg County medical examiner, Turner was not on drugs nor did he have any signs of heart disease prior to the incident.

Charlotte reached a settlement agreement in the police brutality lawsuit prior to trial, resulting in a payment of $625,000 and the city has retrained it’s officers in the use and application of stun guns.

Taser stun guns are designed to incapacitate neuromuscular function by delivering a shock that uses Electro-Muscular Disruption technology. Many law enforcement agencies have deployed the weapons to allow police to incapacitate someone who poses a threat, but there have also been a number of reports of overuse and abuse of the weapons, which could have fatal consequences.

Taser International has defended the safety of their stun guns, maintaining that they deliver non-lethal force and that studies show no risk of cardiac arrest if the device strikes the chest. However, in October 2009, Taser issued new recommendations that officers not directly aim for the chest.

In 2008, Amnesty International released a report on Taser police use, calling for departments throughout the United States to stop using Taser guns or to strictly limit their use to life-threatening situations.

The human rights group linked 334 deaths to the use of Taser guns between 2001 and August 2008. Amnesty International noted that 90% of the Taser deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat to the officers. A large number of the fatalities involved misuse of the weapons, including multiple Taser shocks or exposing suspects to prolonged shocks.

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93 comments

  1. beyerch Reply

    Erin,

    I agree that we shouldn’t reward unruly behaviour; however, this is not a case of rewarding unruly behavior.

    Some on is DEAD because they were being unruly. Tell me where in our justice system we dole out a punishment of death for unruly behaviour? You won’t.

    Let’s say the officer’s didn’t have a taser. What would they have done to subdue the individual? Would they have shot him with their guns or would they have done the old fashioned thing and tried to talk him down, grab him, handcuff him, and haul him out? I think we both know the answer.

    The taser, in the hands of some enforcement officers, has become a primary tool to be used even before simple negotiating and old fashioned manual intervention.

    We can debate all day long about what Amnesty International and the manufacturers claim about the safety of the prod; however, here is a dead person who was otherwise healthy until he was tasered.

  2. anomk Reply

    @Erin

    I don’t think lethal force was justified in this case. I don’t think this teenager posed a threat to anyone’s life. Police need to operate within reasonable bounds, and are not authorized to kill unjustly as in this case. This policeman should go to jail.

  3. Charles Reply

    Comment by Erin on 26 July 2011:

    Perhaps, Erin, you failed to read the very first paragraph of the article. That paragraph means there was a lawsuit filed, evidence was presented from both sides, and Taser Intl. LOST. That is how the legal system works. If you don’t like it, Erin, you can GTFO of this country or you can try to change the entire judicial system all on your own. You say Taser is not responsible in this case: well, a JURY found otherwise. If you don’t like the results of this case, perhaps you can do something proactive like funding Taser Intl.’s appeal for them. I am sure they will love you for it. Have a nice day now.

  4. I lol'd Reply

    Good to see Erin here brought his degree with him

  5. TheMillersTale Reply

    I’d love to see Erin’s medical and science degrees. Do you have ANY idea, Erin, how many people have permanent injuries or have died from being tasered? Nonetheless, it’s fairly obvious you don’t care either way. And how about the officer’s medical degree, the one that might have told him that shocking someone in the chest for 37 seconds would kill that person?

    I celebrate this lawsuit. There need to be more like it until these police departments understand the Taser is not for “compliance”, it is a replacement for lethal force.

  6. roscoe Reply

    @erin, rewards unruly behavior? uhh, the kid is dead.

  7. Delima Reply

    I’m glad the family found SOME peace with their 10 million dollar settlement. It does sound high but they do deserve every penny of it

    As soon as a police officer earns that badge, “they are above the law” so police brutally happens all the time.

    I’m not against tasers because some people can get extremely violence and threaten the officer ( they have to pretend every suspect has a bomb attach to their chest and is going to blow up the world ) and defend them self. The part that is disgusting is when you see officers taze people STRAIGHT into the chest, and even directly onto their heart.

    Now that is disgusting.

  8. Mark Reply

    Erin

    It’s people like you who think that the police can do know wrong that are allowing America to be turned into a Police State. Police are allowed to do anything they want, victimize and abuse or kill anyone they want, so long as they aren’t rich or politically powerful, and the cop will get off with a slap on the wrist. There are too many cops willing to abuse their authority, arrest anyone on any excuse no matter how flimsy, and nowhere near enough good cops willing to stand up and say that this is wrong, and publicly stand up against it.

    The so-called police officer who MURDERED that kid needs to be publicly disgraced and sent to prison. And yes, I do know what happens to cops in prison.

    Police need to be held to a HIGHER legal standard than the rest of us. That’s the price they need to pay for having a monopoly on violence.

  9. Agile_Cyborg Reply

    May this trend continue unabated. American policing has turned into a tyrannical operation and Tasers play a significant role this reprehensible slide toward an authoritarianism.

  10. Jim Reply

    Erin likes when people get murdered. That’s sad.

    Erin, stop wanting people to be murdered. You’re just a shill for the Taser company.

  11. Alex Reply

    Maybe they changed their recommendations because its more COST effective to not kill citizens and end up involved in disputing/settling multimillion dollar lawsuits. I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy but i think when it comes to which crime I think is worse, manslaughter seems a lot more abhorrent than resisting arrest.

  12. Dan Reply

    What a joke. The officer should be brought up on manslaughter charges, and CharMeck PD should also be held responsible for letting this moron out on the street without proper training. The fact that Taser changed their recommendations is clearly a ploy to shift responsibility in the countless other Taser related death lawsuits now and in the future.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taser_safety_issues

  13. Andrew Reply

    Aaron, the boy did not pose a threat to anyone’s life, yet the cop stunned him for 37 seconds. Stunning the boy for 37 seconds was not necessary to subdue him. After the boy stopped moving the cop stunned him for another five seconds, which was completely unnecessary since the kid wasn’t even moving. That cop caused the death of this kid. The cop was the one who pulled the trigger for 37 seconds. Do you really think lethal force is necessary to stop a misbehaving teenager (who was not posing a threat to anyone)? The cop used excessive force.

  14. Chres Reply

    @Erin

    You are insane.

    You’re think a company that does not warn consumers about the potentially life-threatening effects of its products is not responsible?

    So I guess pharmaceutical companies that don’t include warning labels on their meds are not responsible for their consumers either.

    “I’m sure they had a reason – and since they are the police, I’m pretty sure he shouldn’t have given them one. ”

    What is wrong with you? Police are trained to subdue subjects without using projectiles. Instead of wrestling him to the ground, they tasered him twice; once when he was already down. Did you even read the article?

    “90% of the Taser deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat to the officers.”

    Apparently you are living in a warped, twisted reality where authority figures and corporations shouldn’t be held accountable because they do no wrong.

  15. Grady Reply

    Erin,

    Rewards unruly behavior? You mean like being killed, that is a heck of a reward. I bet that family is so happy to be rid of their son and have millions of dollars.

    Also, is your argument really that he just happened to have a heart attack while being tased?

    You make me sick.

  16. zzz Reply

    Pretty sure Erin is in an abusivive relationship with a dirty cop. Erin, there are resources to get you out of your relationship. The electric chair kills people, how is it less dangerous than a firing squad? It isn’t. You aim to kill, you will kill.

  17. kugz Reply

    “Taser is in no way responsible for this young man’s death and should not have to pay a cent, nor are the police.”

    So, following this logic, police are judge, jury and firing squad. Doesn’t matter if they had a good reason to tazer or not, they obviously did not have a reason to kill. Too often people think that people should just follow orders and fall in line when the police say so. This is not Saudi Arabia and we have a right to question the authority of our law enforcement, even if it is very annoying.

  18. Ryan Reply

    The coldness and cruelty of Erin’s comment is striking.

    “unruly” behavior does not justify the death penalty no matter the circumstances. This isn’t Iran, thank you very much. How would you like it if this happened to your child or parent? What if the unruliness was caused by dementia or some other medical condition like a mental disability? How would the police know the difference?

    I’m all for police enforcing laws to the best of their ability with the tools they have available. However, if there is a chance you could kill someone with a TASER, they should stop using them and go back to old fashioned police work.

  19. Sergio Reply

    Hey Erin.

    I think the sentiment here is that if you have someone who is unarmed and not presenting a serious life threatening situation that tasers should not be used. I find it peculiar that 334 people died while or soon after being tased in a span of 7 years. Police officers are supposed to be trained and capable enforcers of the law and they are also supposed to deescalate situations. They shouldn’t jump to using their tasers or abuse them.

    Shocking someone for 37 seconds and then 5 more is a bit excessive. It can’t take more than 10 seconds to have him on the ground and maybe 10 more to have him restrained via more conventional methods.

    I think the real problem here is that we have an increasingly public disdain for officers as a whole because of the few the spoil the batch and no one ever seems to want to pull the bad apple out soon early enough.

  20. Matt Reply

    Erin, maybe you need to rethink what you said. How is Taser in no way responsible for this man’s death? A taser is what killed him. They advised police forces that it was 100% non-lethal. Apparently, they were wrong. Thus, they were responsible for his death.

  21. Thomas Moore Reply

    Erin, what’s sad about our world is that there are so many apologists like yourself who defend blatant police brutality.

  22. Patrick Reply

    Erin, your comment is naive, stupid, inappropriate. A police officer murdered this young man with an electro shock torture device. Tasers should be outlawed, police are not gods and should not be able to shock people on command. If the suspect was armed, then the officer should be able to use his firearm, however if he is not armed, the cop should be trained in hand to hand enough to subdue someone without using an electric shock device.

    This is absurd, this young man was sentenced to death for allegedly throwing items in a super market and attacking a police officer (without a weapon).

  23. Jerry Reply

    I’m glad to see at least one family got a little restitution for having their loved one murdered by the US Gestapo. More power to them.

  24. Erik Reply

    @Erin

    So the police aren’t responsible, and neither is the company who made the instrument that killed him. I guess it’s his own fault that electricity stopped his heart? I mean, it’s pretty damn obvious the taser killed him, and since Taser claims that their products don’t cause that kind of damage when used properly either they are lying or the police misused the weapon. In either case, I don’t see how you can so arrogantly claim that no one is at fault.

  25. Erin Reply

    Erin, you’re a moron if you don’t think electricity stops and starts the heart.

  26. Dennis Reply

    In all reality, the police officers are humans and are dictated by emotions. They are not always right or justified in their actions just because they have a badge. To assume that any officer is doing the right thing at all times no matter what the other factors in the situation are is ludicrous. Erin, your comment is close minded and off base. You are really trying to say that some altercation in a grocery store is worth a human life because the police officer made the right call is just crazy.

  27. Gharrett Reply

    There is no way that these damages will withstand an appeal. The verdict might not be overruled, but the monetary damages awarded will definitely drop. I am not familiar with this particular case, but I would be curious to see where that 10 million dollar figure came from. Meaning, did the jury just determine that 10 million dollars is an appropriate amount of compensatory damages or were they given a suggested range and simply shot for the stars. Also, you have a section 1983 claim – not lawsuit. Lawsuits are not categorized by the statute under which they are filed.

  28. Rachel Reply

    Erin, you’re type of thinking is one of the problems within this country at this point. You do your research and come back to tell us how the police are all benevolent with only the desire to protect and serve. In to many cases, they’re getting military training which is teaching them to see us all as “enemy combatants.” You may not want to believe it; but, it’s the truth nonetheless.

  29. Tony Reply

    “It’s pretty sad when we live in a world that rewards unruly behaviour and encourages misuse of our justice system.”

    What’s truly sad is when a teenager dies due to the misapplication of a tool due to equal parts negligence and ignorance. You seem to be an ‘expert’ at Taser, did you bother to read where Taser International says that the maximum application should not exceed 5 seconds? This kid was tasted for over 30 seconds. Lucky they followed the instructions and tased him for 5 seconds once he was already dead.

    Scratch that: what’s truly sad is seeing idiot blowhards like you justify the death of a minor by saying that disorderly conduct merits a death sentence at the hands of the cops.

    You quote Amnesty International’s conclusion asking for their degree, Discarding the fact that only a moron like yourself would even think to ask that sort of question, what’s telling is how easily you’ll believe Taser Inc’s paid scientists but not a nonprofit whose only goal is to reduce pain and suffering.

  30. Anon Reply

    Dear Erin,
    An unruly teenager does not deserve to die, especially if they are unarmed.
    Regardless of what the kid was doing, he was most likely not threatening the lives of the officers and could have probably been subdued without the use of the Taser. If you are a police officer and cannot manage to secure ONE 17 year old who has no weapon, you have some more training to do. Not to mention, if this was your child, you would most likely be doing the same thing these parents are. It’s easy to act high and mighty when you have no way at all of relating to what you’re commenting on.

  31. Karen Reply

    Police officers are told tasers are safe, so they casually use them on children, elderly, pregnant women, people in diabetic shock, and others who should never be tasered. They use them on already subdued and handcuffed people. Tasers manufacturers should be honest about the potentially lethal consequences of their product, but that would probably hurt their profits. Profits are the reason they lied in the press release about why they were recommending their product not be used on the chest.

    @Erin, you are obviously either a police officer brainwashed into believing tasers are safe, or an employee of a taser manufacturer defending the indefensible for money. Either way, you need to stop blaming the victim and grow a conscience.

  32. Charlie Reply

    So the taser may or may not be responsible. I guess the alternative would have been to use a baton, pepper spray, or shoot the little bastard. I love how he is all of a sudden a victim despite he was the problem to begin with. He contributed to his own demise you moron tree-huggers. And what is 10m going to do for the family. It’s not like this little turd was going to truly contribute to society. If anything, they should have to pay the police for responding and dealing with their kid because they couldn’t.

  33. walker Reply

    charlie your a moron! He certailny is a victim A DEAD ONE! there is no death penalty for throwing a temper tantrum! How do you know he was never going to contriute to society??I suspect you are a police wonna be,and your very revealing post here shows reason your not a officer of the law with the lic. to kill !

  34. dave Reply

    perhaps the officer willfully tried to subject the boy to extreme pain
    another possibility is that he took his finger off the trigger but the trigger was stuck on because they are plastic pieces of junk made in who knows what country where ever max profit could be made

  35. Alex Reply

    I was a police officer while in college over 30 years ago. In general, we had better trained and much more stable people back then, in my opinion. And even then we had lots of problems with abuse. Personally, I believe the $10M award should be upheld and action should be initiated to outlaw these types of weapons completely. Put Taser out of business permanently as there have been far too many tragic deaths of youth, the elderly and just average folks being subjected to such a dangerous device. We just had a case of a mentally ill young man being beaten in the city of Fullerton, California where the police confronting the man not only beat him to death but Tasered him several times without mercy! An absolute moral outrage that will bring much attention to the topic of unreasonable force and the use of so-called non-lethal weapons. Many police falsely believe they can use these weapons without the consequence of a regular firearm that is designed to kill. Wrong! This may encourage them to use Tasers less discriminately and more frequently. Perhaps we should start reexamining the entire role of police in our society. Personally, I’m tired of the bravado, arrogance and attitude exhibited by most officers I see in my daily life. They are people to stay away from. Where I live, most folks are rightfully wary of them and their propensity to escalate situations from a mere disagreement to a full-blown violent confrontation. The militarization of local police is very worrisome as they seem to tend to think of themselves superior to the citizenry which they serve. They have adopted a siege-mentality that cannot be allowed to thrive in a civil society. I understand why there are so many officer involved assaults by suspects and the public. Sadly, many police are not to be trusted, especially when their main function seems to be issuing citations to Joe Citizen to fleece him out of his hard-earned money in the form of fines, court fees and other nonsense. Radar speed enforcement should be curtailed as well. If a driver drives recklessly, then he should be given a citation and taken before a judge. But to harass someone for driving 5 to 10 miles over the limit, where there is no potential danger is pure extortion. This also cannot be allowed as the police reputation is damaged among the normally law-abiding citizenry for being unfair, unreasonable and abusive. I always considered myself a Peace Officer, not a Law Enforcement Officer. Like the fine men who trained me and taught me to use my brain instead of weapons and my fists, I was proud to be a Peace Officer in order to help people and secure a better society. The term Law Enforcement is horrible and it should be abolished from the lexicon. It sounds somewhat evil to me as “force” is never wholesome to the conducting of our society. I suppose I come from a different time, but things were much better then. We saw ourselves as servants of the people and not their masters. Today’s police better change their attitude toward serving and protecting the public or they risk having their heads handed to them by an ever-growing outraged public. We Americans simply will not tolerate those in our employ to harm others purposefully without very good reason and justification. If not, then the supposed cure for “crime” is actually worse than the disease for if we lose our humanity and compassion for others, then we have genuinely lost the war.

  36. Rebel Reply

    Who maintains all these taser’s? Or do they just work perfectly forever when you take them out of the box? I’m sure all these cops carrying them around are licensed electritians, making sure their equipment is not going to malfunction.

  37. TheJudge Reply

    This result is exactly what has to happen. Big verdicts against the makers and users of the product are the only thing which can convince risk management departments that it is too costly to use tasers. This suit should be followed by many more.

  38. Marcus Hardin Reply

    The US signed the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) as did 446 other nations. The agreement allows pain and suffering incidental to lawful sanctions. An example would be the 4 seconds of torture incidental to electrocution in the electric chair or the pain and suffering incidental to being lawfully shot by a police officer.
    Torture was not the reason or the intent behind either action.
    The State of Nebraska declared the 4 seconds of torture caused by the use of electricity to execute a convicted felon to be cruel and unusual punishment and Un-Constitutional..
    Inflicting intentional pain suffering and torture is the only use for an electronic torture device like a Taser.

    Taser International misrepresented Tasers when they sold them to every city and law enforcement department around the world.
    At first they were sold as \”non-lethal\” the later \”Less Lethal\” and today after so many deaths they are \”don\’t shoot for the chest you might kill someone\”

    If city leaders were honest or are not paid off by TI they should sue TI for the cost to tax payers of the mis-represented weapons and all costs to the city for training and law suits.

    Tasers sometimes cause death but Tasers always causes torture and cruel and unusual punishment. Police Officers never use a Taser in a Life Threatening Situation, they would be fools to do so. This only leaves torture for a reason to use Tasers. We as a Nation act all Better-Than-Thou when we condemn other nations for torturing their people all the while condoning it here at home. I think that is called Hypocritical.– Marcus Hardin –Study Coordinator- One Accord Coalition Against Torture and Taser-Torture-Victims.com

  39. Greg Reply

    Wow. After reading all of these comments from arm chair scientists and expert legal analysts of the computer desk variety, I have to say that I am quite disappointed that no one here except Erin has any idea of what they are talking about.

    The ECD, or Taser as some people call it, is designed to deliver a low level shock to the surface area of the skin. Its funny how hundreds of thousands of cops worldwide have been hit by the Taser and there was only 1 incident where the Officer needed medical attention. I know Officers who got the “ride” that have had heart problems in the past. he device is also certified to be safe to use on people with pacemakers. I’ve taken the ride twice, and I had a small irregular heart beat and I didn’t die. Tasers deliver low, pulsed currents of electricity that is designed to offset the nervous system. It is not fatal. In fact, most fatalities that are attributed to the taser that was used were actually from other underlying conditions. But most of you armchair lawyers probably didn’t research that.

    The fact is that Police Officers have to go through a lot of training, including constitutional law. They have to understand the use of force continuum’s, the way their equipment works, and how to deal with people who are threats. A recent study actually found that most Police Officers use less force than they are legally allowed to use, in plain terms, they don’t shoot as many people as they are legally allowed to. While you sit and criticize a job most of you could never understand, a Police Officer has to force themselves to do something that a majority of human beings cannot do, which is take the life of another.

    By the way, a 17 year is old enough to enlist in the service, and is more than capable of being a threat. Armed or unarmed, a 17 year old can do a lot of damage, especially if they get the upper hand in a conflict. You don’t o hands on unless you have no other alternative.

    I don’t work for Taser, I am a Use of Force and defensive tactics instruct. I spent years perfecting my trade and I have had to deal with my share of situations. Since the closest most of you have been to a life and death street encounter was on last nights Law and Order episode, it would behoove you to keep your opinions to yourself.

  40. jim Reply

    The Taser is not a good tool. Period. If a citizen cannot be calmed down and controlled, he should be subdued by other means such as a baton, pepper spray, or shooting. A number of things need to be exausted before a potentially lethal method is deployed. I see the taser being introduced to low on the force continuum and is not a “magic solution” to a very real problem. Yes, it is well known that an Officer faces dangerous situations daily and should be trained to know how & when to introduce weapons of any kind to the situation – however, a fight is not static and can become out of control quickly. For the officers that think it is funny to speak of how someone convulsed and “fish-flopped” when tasered, I say this: if I am ever tasered, I am certain it will be my actions that caused it because I did not comply with officers commands – on the other side of that, if I don’t die, the officer that tases me will have a good ole ass whippin’ coming at some point in the future.
    There are too many alternatives to tasers to make it a good choice for modern Policing.

  41. Vito Reply

    lucky he did not do that to any member of my family….that dumb fuck!

  42. Ernest Reply

    My name is Ernest Wheeler I live in Tulare California . My Lil brother Robert Olivo 33 was a young heathy man who loved life and would help anyone if the opportunity presented itself . He was a Christian . The Sunday before the day my brother was tasered to death I myself was baptized at our church . Since then it’s been an emotional roller coaster ride from hell . Robert called police twice that night from his cell phone requesting medical attention . He was seen and heard banging on doors asking for help approx. 1:00 am march 3 2010 . He had no shirt no shoes no weapons the eye witness on scene said he knew my brother needed medical attention because he appeared dis oriented but was no threat to the officers who where there total of seven police officers . Robert was bipolar . So the officers knew before they arrived that Robert needed help . They told Robert to get down and he was but then two officers started to mace Robert the witness said Robert got up and told the officers why you doing this to me I’m the one who called then they dog piled on Robert I think my brother realized that the officers weren’t there to help him they were there to hurt him so he began fighting for his life . The witness said Robert bit one of the officers on the hand then they jumped off of Robert and two officers began tasering Robert at the same time one witness even told the officers that they were going to kill him but it didn’t have no effect on them they kept tasering Robert till he stopped moving then they hand cuffed him hands and feet . Tulare California is where this happened look up Tulare advance register march 3 2010 . autopsy reports show that Robert was tazed once over his heart once in the abdomen and once on his back . In my own words this is what happened to my Lil brother and till this day I haven’t seen the police report is it because it all started when Robert called asking for help from Tulare P.D. If my brother would of received the medical attention he ask for he would be here today . Next day where Robert was killed police department sent someone out to clean up because the smell of the mace was making residents sick . Why was did Robert have to die in this manner requesting medical attention this is the root of my anger if you can help me deal with this matter Robert and I would be very grateful thank you .

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