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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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94 comments

  1. Erin Reply

    Perhaps everyone should go to TASER’s website and take a look at the press release they put up when they issued the report about changing the preferred target zones for tasering. If they did, they would probably notice that they changed their target zones to increase the effectiveness of the tool, not because the tool was killing people.

    Amnesty International can “link” deaths to tasering all they want – I’d love to see their medical and science degrees that give them the authority to do that.

    It is quite a tragedy that this teenager died. Perhaps he should not have been fighting with the police in the first place. Perhaps they should not have tasered him for as long as they did. I’m sure they had a reason – and since they are the police, I’m pretty sure he shouldn’t have given them one.

    I think this lawsuit is absolute crap. Taser is in no way responsible for this young man’s death and should not have to pay a cent, nor are the police.

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

  2. jeramie Reply

    I have a section 1983 lawsuit pending in us district court in southern illinois for officers shooting me in the head with taser an shocking me while subdued in cuffs plus suffered a collapased lung from the beating an need attorney badly as I’m currently pro se

  3. Bill Reply

    @Erin
    Really you’re entire arguement is that you trust a cooperation to tell the truth before you trust Amnesty International. A non profit organisation that has no reason to lie verse TASER a company whose entire advertising campaign is that the weapon does not kill people. Explain this misplaced trust to me?

    Further how can you trust the police? Do you know police officers? They are no more or less intelligent then you or me. And as such they can easily make mistakes. The difference is when a police officer makes a mistake some poor kid has to die. When I make a mistake my hotpocket is over cooked. Your assertions place too much trust in organisations that are really trying to deceive you for one reason or another.

  4. Forrest Reply

    Tasers encourage aggressive law enforcement behavior. Cops are not screened for intellect and are poorly trained in Constitutional matters. The number of cases of abusive cops is HUGE. If the taser folks want to make money, fine. But if they sell a lethal device and advertise it as non-lethal, they are going to have to pay the piper when things go wrong. I hope the award stands and is the first of many.

  5. C1 Reply

    Erin, you are no doubt working for Taser Inc. PR department, because I can’t beleve that there genuine people with such idiotic views like you.
    Your comment looks like created by some automatic software. Are you real person? I don’t even believe it.

  6. commonsense Reply

    @Erin, you’re a fucking tool. Are you a TASER employee? Number one you don’t need to have a medical degree to link a report showing the death of an individual was caused by a Taser. That’s because a medical examiner conducting an autopsy has made that determination. Secondly, did you witness the crime? Is it possible the officer was abusing the weapon? Was the officer following police protocol when he decided to shock the kid for almost 40 seconds non-stop?? while I’ll agree that TASER should not be held responsible, the officer was definitely to blame. Too often police abuse their power and the justice system favors them. If a citizen breaks the civil/constitutional rights of another citizen they are arrested, placed in jail and sent before a judge. If a cop does it (murder SOMETIMES excluded) an investigation is launched and the officer is placed on admin. leave, usually with pay. The end result usually being the officer was “justified”. As you put it, “It’s pretty sad when we live in a world that rewards unruly behaviour and encourages misuse of our justice system”

  7. Eddy Reply

    Perhaps someone should stop making vague statements and have the courage of their convictions to make a thought out definitive declaration (even if it is ignorant naive drivel) …perhaps.

  8. Maurice Reply

    Erin: Regarding “Perhaps he should not have been fighting with the police in the first place. ”

    Right.
    It is always the victims fault.
    People and attitudes like yours are why we now have the “slutwalk” demonstrations.

    The cops killed a BOY with a taser.
    They tasered him a second time, when he was immobile.
    The only thing wrong after that is the fact that the men who murdered him are not being tried for their crime.

  9. Wesman Reply

    The comment by this “Erin” is beyond pathetic. Police in this nation are now decked out like infantry – I’d like to see Erin’s medical and science degrees to justify her support of police murdering a young man and misusing their “tools.”

  10. Wilson Reply

    Thank you Erin for your online example of how to be a bootlicker 101. I’m sure if it was your 17 year old kid, you would still be upholding the righteous Taser Inc and those innocent police involved, whatever the reason…it must be good. The fact that the Charlotte police department had to retrain it’s officers means nothing. 334 deaths in eight years from a “non-lethal” weapon means nothing too.

  11. Eddie P Reply

    Something gives me the impression that ‘Erin’ is very,very familiar with the Taser website…

  12. jim Reply

    Fuck you Erin.

    You don’t kill a kid for throwing box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I hope they tase you the next time you even think about raising your voice in public. Bitch.

  13. Liz Reply

    Erin, it sounds like you’re kind of saying “he deserved it.” Nobody is “rewarding” unruly behavior by insisting that the penalty for such behavior shouldn’t be DEATH. And I’d love to hear what you think is a good reason for continuing to tase someone after they’re unresponsive. Cops are humans, and very often they let their emotions get the best of them, and use more force than is necessary. The whole point of giving tasers to cops was to give them a less lethal option, so they’d use the gun less often. Instead what’s happened is that the taser is being used as a multi-purpose tool in situations where otherwise no force at all would have been used, and cops justify this by relying on the documentation from the manufacturer, which has claimed these things can’t kill. Taser, Inc. wrote it that way so more police departments could get the purchase approved, so they could make more money. They’re in the best position to pay this settlement. Would you rather it come out of a local police department budget?

  14. Phineas Reply

    Erin, do you believe that this child’s death was caused by something other than an officer using excessive force with a deadly weapon? Also, do you believe the TASER company’s studies into the safety of their product are less biased than the results of a federal lawsuit?

  15. Biff Reply

    @Erin —

    How right you are. All unruly behavior should carry a death penalty. God forbid you ever have a son or daughter who looks at a police officer the wrong way after the officer has had a bad morning and needs to vent some steam.

  16. Erin is a fucking moron Reply

    Committing a crime or allegedly committing a crime does not give an Officer the power to be Judge, Jury, and Executioner. We do not murder people for being in fights.

    The law is written to give Everyone the benefit of the doubt, and treat everyone as they would want to be treated if they were in the worst possible circumstances. Maybe he shouldn’t be fighting, but the issue here, is the Cop used an extremely high voltage weapon against a child, and for 37 seconds (PLEASE COUNT TO 37. It’s a very long time) shocked a boy to death.

    Imagine you get in a street fight with someone. Over any reason. Someone stole your wallet, someone punched your wife, someone tried to kidnap a child, something causes you to get in a fight. Does that give a cop the right to Murder you?

  17. cdnbidman Reply

    We’re struggling with the same challenges here in Canada (Vancouver airport Taser death). I don’t have enough background to understand the scientific issues associated with Tasers but a little common sense would solve most of the problems:

    ONLY use Tasers in cases of life-threatening situations and train the officers. Treat and handle Tasers just like guns. Just use them when possible as the first line of defence.

    Tasers are a fantastic weapon (I chose that word intentionally) as compared to guns. That’s their perfect use. Beyond that, to subdue an uncooperative suspect, a grade school truant, a drunk and all the other misuses is not acceptable and police forces should be held accountable.

  18. Andrew Reply

    What did police do before Tasers? Pepper spray must be soooo 90’s

  19. Richard Reply

    Tasers should be used to make a violent person stop, not to punish someone for lying still. In this case, the victim was lying still because he was unconscious. Remember, punishment is the function of the criminal courts, not police officers on the street.

  20. Steven Reply

    Erin, perhaps you should read the next comment here (from Jeramie). It’s obvious that you have only ever had positive interaction with the police. Believe it or not, some law officers, either intentionally or accidentally, misuse Tasers when dealing with people. Certainly, it may be appropriate to Taser people in some instances, however, in this case (and many others) the police officer acted irresponsibly and killed someone as a result.

    If this isn’t convincing you, imagine this scenario – you, or someone you hold dear (maybe your father or brother), is, for some reason, approached by an officer of the law. The person you are imagining is somehow misunderstood by this officer and the situation escalates because the officer starts getting scared and panicky and, no matter how the other person tries to defuse things, the situation continues to escalate and the officer decides that deploying their Taser is the best means of resolving the crisis.

    Misunderstandings occur as part of human interaction. When one party has been trained to maintain authority by any means necessary and that party feels that a situation is getting out of control, dangerous things often happen.

    And yes, maybe the kid in this article was being an idiot, does that mean he deserved to die and no-one is to be held accountable but the kid himself?

  21. Ben Reply

    @ Erin – lol yea this young man who had no medical history nor had any drugs in his system according to toxicology reports just HAPPENED to die right at the exact time he was shot with a taser in the chest. I am sure it is just PURE COINCIDENCE – and we all know that cops never over react are given their career choice are always right and stand up people.

    You sir, are a fucking idiot – and I am guessing work in law enforcement or have a family member that does.

    The truth is police are humans just like anyone of us – and they can be at fault as well.

    Anyways it doesn’t matter how much logic i put in your face you will never change your mind because you are ignorant.

    Cheers

    B.

  22. rando Reply

    okay erin how about your retarded. Lets use and electric shock, to disprupt the muscle movements and functions to stop someone from being “out of line” so they are easier to take down. Oh, wait, the heart uses minute electrical impulses to make the heartbeat actually beat everytime, so police are just to assume that sending 50k volts through your body isnt supposed to effect the electrical impulses that your heart sends to keep it beating, which is complete shit. Police are here to protect and serve, 1 person dying UNARMED is enough. All of the people who have died bc of police since 2001from tasers, might as well have been shot in the head with the officers 9mil, they ended up dead in the end anyways, whats the difference between a taser and a bullet, if they both got the job done.

  23. deane Reply

    dear erin,

    the fact remain true in this case. kid gets tasered and dies. i do agree 10M is way to much however, a person DIED from over use of or maybe application of something that is labeled as NON-LETHAL! that is what is being attacked. the manufacturer likely lied about the safety of its product. stick to the facts which a judge AND jury have agreed to!

  24. marla Reply

    They need to look at different things to sudue with. This has happened alot even in the smaller town where they sweep it under the rug. It really is not humane on certian people.

  25. John Reply

    Erin!

    I’m so glad to see that we finally have someone on OUR side! Police for too long have been getting a bad reputation for electrocuting people to death! Instead of sticking up for the marginalized civilians, we need to stick up for the people who don’t have any of the power: the power police with badges, tazers, and guns. For too long they have suffered!

  26. gary Reply

    Seriously, Erin? Do you work for Taser International? The situation is pretty clear. Cop shoots kid with taser. Kid lies still on ground. Cop tases him again. Kid dies. To say “Taser is in no way responsible” makes it clear that you are biased here. Taser has said over and over their taser gun is non-lethal. That’s why it’s used the way it is. And that is why they are responsible for the death.

  27. Yup Reply

    Its important to remember that in most taser incidents, the officer was at the point where he could have shot the individual. So of the over 10K taserings a year, which is better, 300+ so called linked deaths or 10K actual deaths? You pick.

  28. Nunya Reply

    @Erin – Sounds like a paid intern at PR office working on behalf of TASER. Disgusting tone, and terrible application of logic, glad you spent a whole 5 minutes sounding out the words, then gave your “expert” opinion. I know nothing about the case, just that your post smells like … well you know, your sitting in it.

  29. paul Reply

    It’s pretty sad when we live in a world in which people accept corporate press releases as fact and see anyone who gets in the way of any police officer as deserving of whatever they get- even it it’s negligent murder.

  30. @Erin Reply

    I’d love to see the scientific studies that prove that electric chairs are really what killed all those inmates on death row who were electrocuted.

  31. Max Reply

    It’s pretty sad when people think it’s ok to kill children for being unruly at a grocery store. I’m sure he had it coming.

  32. reid Reply

    are you kidding me erin?!?!? get your head out of the your ass. Have you been paying attention to police brutality lately. It is almost never justified, but with out any information on the subject and with the track record that the police have you have to be purposfuly ignorant to believe that the officer was in the right to shock a person for that long a short shock incapacitates everyone, 47 seconds is just torture. The officer and the company should both be held responsible for reckless endangerment. Erin you are one of two things a troll(which is completely inappropriate given the context of the article) or just plain ignorant of the situation and how tazers actually work.

  33. Evan Reply

    It takes a certain type of personto become an officer. Mostly they are good people. However, there are a good amount of them who are in it for power and control it gives them. I know because I interviewed officers, cadets and explorers in college. Police deserve respect for their position. However many many officers are negligent in day to day duties. It’s easy to seefor yourself with a little detective work.

  34. Dude Reply

    @Erin. How are neither the taser company nor the police responsible? The teenager died from faulty equipment, or because the officer used it excessively. Regardless of whether or not the teenager deserved to be tased, he was the one who paid the ultimate price. You said yourself, the taser company changed guidelines, but not because there products were killing people. When used correctly, tasers are a safe way to immobilize a combatant. The amnesty international report you refer to says that 90% of the deaths from tasers were from prolonged use, or multiple tasers being used at once. Are you that retarded enough to think that these cases are fraudulent and are entirely made up due to some agenda that amnesty international has? it is not lawsuits like this that makes our country sad, it is people like you that blindly support your ideas and beliefs, despite evidence and reason. If tasers don’t kill people, then why is this kid dead? The county examiner, who works with the police, even said that there were no signs of drug use or heart disease. And yet this kid is dead. So, if it isn’t the police or the manufacturer, then who the fuck do you think is responsible?

  35. Sarah Reply

    Comment to Erin – So how long have you been working for the Taser company’s marketing department?

  36. BloodyFox Reply

    Erin, you disgust me.

  37. James Reply

    Erin, I get the feeling you work for TASER, but I admit, I could be misapprehending your diatribe. However, I do see some frightful assumptions and generalizations that would certainly appeal to anyone unlikely to challenge your assertions. First, we live in a country, not a world, and that country has media that serves as an advertising platform which sells based on how spectacular events might be at given times in history. Unruly behavior and teenagers go hand in hand, by the way and crime rates drop as people mature-that is, after all the point to maturity. Would you be as off-handed if that teen had been the issue of YOUR loins? I’d bet the farm you’d be screaming bloody murder. Never mind suing TASER.
    As for misusing the justice system, when was the last time you picked up a Wall Street Journal and read the back pages, where the SEC lists all the corporations which misuse the ENTIRE system, which, by the way, includes the justice system? I thought so…..
    Few police officers, by the way, are trained to react with equanimity to a youth who might bloody their noses. After all, what self-respecting officer wants to dip into his pocket for the cleaning bill, never mind taking a chance on a chipped tooth? Naw, it’s easier just to use overwhelming force and let the city or state government handle the fallout afterwards. Have you noticed how few officers are truly punished after all kinds of trespasses against citizens, all across America? It is very much like the stonewalling that has gone on, protecting pederast priests from a pissed-off public.
    On second thought, I think you ARE a shill for TASER. I hope someday you get in the way of one of those barbaric devices and survive to tell the tale.

  38. Rik Reply

    Erin, if you believe everything you see in a press release, you must live in an interesting world… And do you honestly believe that Amnesty doesn’t have doctors and scientists working for them?

  39. Bob Reply

    Erin, you are dangerously naive thinking that police are always in the right. Although we hope they are properly trained, they are still human.

    What little I have read about this incident suggests, at the very least, the taser was used in a manner which increased the risk of an undesired outcome.

  40. Roger Reply

    Erin, you disgust me on a personal level.

  41. Jim Reply

    It is doubtless that Erin is posting as an affiliate of the taser company. You have a disgusting attitude. How dare you cheapen the life of a human being. A person died due to your product. You don’t get to play the injured party. If anything 10 million is a sum too low.

    I am very happy with the verdict, and this will doubtless prove to be an important precedent for bringing future lawsuits against this dangerous and irresponsible company.

  42. Dave Reply

    “Perhaps he should not have been fighting with the police in the first place. Perhaps they should not have tasered him for as long as they did. I’m sure they had a reason – and since they are the police, I’m pretty sure he shouldn’t have given them one.”

    Yeah right, as if reportedly laughing is cause for being shocked in the chest for 37 seconds and then being shocked for five more after not responding. I’m sure the kid deserved it.

  43. Erinsdumb Reply

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

    Well they tased him then he died. So the way I see it, the taser is wholly responsible for his death.

  44. C Reply

    To the comment stating that he shouldn’t have been “unruly”… You are a fucking piece of shit. Is this how you justify in your mind the use of tasers? Let me guess, you’re either a cop yourself or related to one, or even related to this guy. It’s fucking disgusting and pathetic that you find a way to justify MURDER in your mind. This child DOESN”T HAVE A LIFE ANYMORE. But that’s ok, cause he was UNRULY!!! You useless waste of life, I hope you suffer the same fate.

  45. wphayduke Reply

    So Erin, you believe that the police should be unrestricted to tazer anyone whose behavior might be considered ‘unruly’? without restriction? II’m sure sometimes there may be no choice but, like you and I, the police need structure and guidelines for their behavior, like any of us, they have to be held accountable based on community standards, but being tazed for 37 seconds (then an extra 5) seems like a long time (considering the results especially). Weren’t you ever 17 and just-plain-stupid? the death penalty seems a LITTLE excessive for “unruly” behavior Was that MUCH tasing really necessary? And maybe I’m wrong about this specific case too [for example, if the guy was threatening the police..] but I’ve read 1984 and this is a very slippery slope. My sympathies go out both to the police and the victim but the one who died seems more sinned against than sinning (although I could be wrong, maybe the police had no choice – I didn’t sit on that jury).

  46. Nick Reply

    @Erin

    I’m not sure if you’re trolling or simply one of those people that has an illogical and unwavering trust in the highly fallible police force and overarching justice system.

    I’m going to address most of the issues you raise in your post in the hopes of providing a comprehensive and convincing counterpoint to your fairly one-sided opinion of this article and the broader issue of abuse of police powers with special regard to the use of tazers.

    Firstly, the press release on TASER’s website can be explained in a simple and obvious manner. The question you need to ask yourself is if you were a company that manufactured a supposedly ‘non-lethal’ alternative to firearms, would you acknowledge that your products were responsible for the deaths of several (up to hundreds) of people? Of course not, you’d issue a statement that indirectly addressed the arguments of anti-TASER proponents by re-assigning target areas on the body for which the TASER is ‘designed’. This way, the company has a counter argument when it is pressed by direct opponents of its products, and simultaneously minimises negative press by refraining to openly acknowledge any issue with its products.

    Secondly, Amnesty International is a very large and (obviously) International organisation that has done much to combat suffering and injustice in the world. It commands a large number of professionals, and is highly capable of commissioning a study into the cause of suspicious taser related deaths.

    Thirdly, and this is where your comment incensed me most of all, you simply cannot instill unimpeachable legal and moral authority in the hands of the police force. From the facts of the story, the boy was a teenager and unarmed, it mentions nothing of him exhibiting violence against the police officers or attempts at resisting arrest.

    What the facts do state however, is that after the initial 37 second burst of electricity to the boy’s chest, he stopped breathing. At this point, instead of seeking medical attention for the boy, even after he had been incapacitated, the boy was shocked for a further five minutes. We can assume that this would have been the most critical stage for resuscitative measures, which were duly ignored because the dying boy was ‘ignoring’ orders to place his hands behind his back.

    Finally, I’m not advocating a lawless society in which the police are powerless to stop even a teenager throwing a tantrum in a shopping centre. What I am saying is that it’s quite ignorant to blithely support the police in using their dangerous and largely untested weaponry on civilians who have done little more than disturb the peace.

    If you’ve made it this far congratulations

    TL;DR

    Cannot be too careful with our civil liberties especially with regards to the abuse of police power.

  47. Big Mike Reply

    @Erin: You presume we all live in a world where police don’t regularly overstep their boundaries. Ergo: “Who watches the watchmen”?

  48. Jim Reply

    @Erin – It’s also a sad world we live in where people defend abusive actions by police. But hey, the appropriate response to “unruly behavior” should always be violent and potentially lethal electrocution, right?

  49. Mari Reply

    @Erin: Your response screams of ignorance with the idea that law enforcement officials can do no wrong. Certainly there are poorly trained or just bad cops out there that say whatever they have to cover their butts in cases like this. Sometimes it’s just plain easier to use the taser. Sometimes the cops actually give a crap about the people they encounter. Sometimes cops are just scared of everything they encounter and overreact to situations that might involve confrontation. My father is a retired LAPD officer, and even he made mistakes and was even suspended for a couple weeks because of it. Tasers are overused and they cause harm. Regardless of what this kid did, he didn’t deserve to die, and his family deserves compensation for their loss. I hope that you never have this happen to one of your children.

  50. Paul Reply

    Erin can be reached at Taser International, PR Depertment.

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