Police Taser Use Lawsuit Filed Against New York City

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed this week against New York City Police Department by the mother of a psychiatric patient who was shot with a Taser stun-gun while he was on top of a security gate, causing him to fall 10 feet and suffer fatal injuries when he landed on his head.

The police Taser lawsuit was filed in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on February 25, 2009. It was filed against New York Police Department, as well as Lt. Michael Pigott and Officer Nicholas Marchesona, the two officers who encountered Iman Morales on September 24, 2008.

After a 30 minute standoff with Morales standing naked on top of a storefront security gate waving a fluorescent light bulb, Lt. Pigott ordered Officer Marchesona to fire his Taser gun to incapacitate Morales.

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Tasers use Electro-Muscular Distruption technology to deliver a high-voltage electric shock that disrupts neuromuscular function, designed to incapacitate individuals who are being combative or fleeing police.

As a result of the 50,000 volt Taser Shock, Morales’ body stiffened and he fell 10 feet to the sidewalk below, striking his head. The traumatic head injury ultimately resulted in his death.

The police negligence lawsuit alleges that the officers fired the Taser gun in violation of police department guidelines which indicate that a stun gun should not be used in situations where someone could fall from an elevated position.

The New York Police Department has admitted that the officer made an error of judgment and over 400 officers in the department were given additional training on appropriate police Taser use and encounters with emotionally disturbed people.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Lt. Pigott, who was put on desk duty after the incident, committed suicide to spare his family from seeing him arrested. Authorities subsequently said that there had been no plans to pursue charges against Pigott, indicating that the incident was an unfortunate tragedy, but not a crime.

Police Taser use has generated a substantial amount of attention in recent months following this incident and a New Years day police shooting in Oakland, where an officer shot his firearm while other officers were attempting to subdue a man. Many suspect that the officer had intended to fire his Taser, but shot his firearm instead, killing the suspect.

In December 2008, Amnesty International issued a report identifying 334 Taser deaths in the United States between 2001 and August 2008 linked to the use of of the stun guns by police. Amnesty International has called on the government to limit the use of Tasers to life-threatening situations, since they are widely overused and can deliver lethal charges or otherwise cause a suspect to suffer fatal injuries.

According to the Amnesty report, 50 of the 334 deaths were directly due to Taser shocks and 90% involved people who were unarmed.


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