The family of 16-year-old Robert Mitchell plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that police used excessive force when they struck the unarmed, 5 foot tall, 125-pound teenager with a Taser stun gun last week. The family believes the shock delivered by the Taser ultimately lead to the teen’s death, which may be the third teen Taser death this year, and the second in the past 30 days in the state of Michigan.
Taser stun guns deliver electro-muscular shocks that affect neuromuscular function and thereby temporarily disable individuals.
Although they are designed to provide non-lethal force, Amnesty International has reported that over 350 Taser-related deaths have occurred in the United States since 2001, leading to calls for the stun guns to only be used in life-threatening situations.
Robert Mitchell, who had a learning disability, died after he was struck with a Taser by police in Warren, Michigan. The teen fled police after a traffic stop for an expired license plate and ran into an abandoned building to hide, where police struck him with the stun gun while apprehending him.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the boy’s family intends to file a police brutality lawsuit alleging that the Taser use was unnecessary and involved excessive force for the teen with a small build.
Last month, another Michigan teen died after being struck by a Taser gun in Bay City. Brett Elder, who was 15 years old at the time of his death, was struck after he started to fight with officers while they were attempting to intervene in a dispute between the teen and another person.
According to witnesses, Elder was “flopping around” on the ground after being struck by the Taser and an emergency medical crew was called. Upon his arrival at the hospital, the 15 year old was pronounced dead.
Following the death of Elder, Amnesty International claimed that he was the second minor to die after Taser use this year, making Robert Mitchell potentially the third teen Taser death.
In December 2008, Amnesty released a report that found 90% of all Taser gun deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat to officers. In addition, a number of deaths have been associated with inappropriate use of the weapons, such as repeated firings, shocks that last longer than five seconds or delivering a charge to the neck or head.
In response to the tragedy, Jim Flouts, the Mayor of Warren questioned whether Taser guns should be used by police in the city, and indicated that police policy in the city will be reviewed.