A settlement has been reached in a police brutality lawsuit filed by the mother of a teen who died in 2006 after being struck with a Taser stun gun by Jerseyville police officers in Illinois.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Rita Cummings, the mother of Roger Holyfield, who died on October 29, 2006. The case was brought against police officers and dispatchers with the Jerseyville Police Department and the City of Jerseyville in Illinois.
The complaint alleged that officers used unreasonable and excessive force when they placed Holyfield under arrest without sufficient cause. Although he was unarmed, handcuffed and laying facedown on the ground, the officers reportedly shot Holyfield with a Taser several times.
After Holyfield began vomiting, emergency medical responders were called and he died on the way to a local hospital.
Although the medical examiner indicated that Holyfield’s death was from natural causes as a result of “excited delirium,” the family alleged that the police brutality and excessive Taser use caused the death.
“Excited delirium,” which is also sometimes referred to as “agitated delirium,” is a controversial designation that is regularly cited as a cause of death for individuals apprehended by police who are acting in an irrational and hyperactive manner and subsequently die in custody. It only appears as a cause of death where police are involved in restraining an individual, and it is commonly cited following the use of Tasers by police.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Cummings reached an agreement to settle the Illinois wrongful death lawsuit but the terms of the resolution were not disclosed.
Police use of Tasers has generated substantial controversy, especially in recent months following several other deaths involving teens struck by the stun guns that are designed to deliver non-lethal electro-muscular shocks to temporarily disable a person.
As a result of at least 350 deaths linked to Taser use, Amnesty International has called for the stun guns to only be used in life threatening situations or not be used at all. A report released by Amnesty in December 2008 indicated that approximately 90% of the deaths they examined involving police use of a Taser were situations where the suspect was unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat.