A 15-year old boy died last weekend after being struck with a Taser fired by police in Michigan, renewing calls by Amnesty International for the government to limit use of the stun guns to life-threatening situations or to stop using the weapons altogether.
Although the exact cause of the boy’s death has not been confirmed, Brett Elder died on Sunday shortly after Bay City police fired their Taser gun to subdue him during a confrontation. Police officers were responding to a dispute between the teenager and another person, when Elder tried to fight with them, prompting the use of the Taser to deliver an incapacitating electrical jolt.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Elder’s aunt reported that he was “flopping around” 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.
Tasers are designed to deliver non-lethal force to incapacitate individuals who may pose serious threats by using a special Electro-Muscular Disruption technology. However, a number of deaths have been linked to the use of Tasers, and consumer groups have maintained that the weapons are widely misused and overused.
Amnesty International has pointed to the recent Taser death of Brett Elder as further support for their request that police restrict use of the stun guns to life-threatening situations. The group claims that Elder is the second minor to die after Taser use this year, and that 351 Taser deaths have occurred in the United States since 2001.
In December 2008, Amnesty released a report highlighting the lethal effects of Taser guns. The report found that 90% of all Taser gun deaths they examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat. In addition, many of the deaths were associated with misuse of the weapons, including repeated firings or shocks that lasted longer than the standard five seconds.