A Minnesota nursing home resident has died two weeks after being shot with a Taser gun by police who say they were trying to save his life.
Zheng Diao, 76, died late last month from complications associated with injuries suffered as a result of being Tasered by St. Louis police on July 14.
Police were called to the nursing home, Park Health and Rehabilitation Center in St. Louis Park, after Diao reportedly began threatening people with a knife and a pair of scissors. Officers were unable to communicate with Diao in English and tried using gestures to convince him to put down the improvised weapons. When Diao put the knife up to his throat, officers shot him with the stun gun in an attempt to subdue him.
Diao suffered a fall and seriously injured his face. While being treated for his injuries and for delirium, Diao contracted pneumonia and died. According to a report by Minnesota Public Radio, the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, indicated that Diao’s injuries and subsequent pneumonia were a direct result of him being stunned and falling on his face.
The St. Louis Police Department plans to ask an independent third party to review the incident. The police department did not become aware of Diao’s death until August 5.
In recent years, serious concerns have emerged about the widespread use of Taser guns by police forces throughout the United States. The stun guns are designed to incapacitate neuromuscular function by delivering a shock that uses Electro-Muscular Disruption tecnology.
Although Taser International, the manufacturer of the weapons, maintains that the shock delivered by the Taser is not life threatening, a number of deaths have occurred following use of the stun guns.
In 2008, Amnesty International released a report, calling for police 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 2009, noting that 90% of Taser deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat to the officers.
In October 2011, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) released a report that estimated 15% of Taser shootings examined were clearly inappropriate, routinely being used on subjects who were unarmed and posed no physical threat. In addition, more than a third of the cases examined by the NYCLU involved multiple or prolonged shocks, and in 27% of the incidents police officers shot the Taser in the victim’s chest, which some reports suggest could increase the risk of fatal heart injuries.