A Missouri municipality has agreed to pay $2.4 million to the family of a man who died after police shocked him several times with a Taser. The local police police department also agreed to suspend use of the controversial stun guns, which have been linked to hundreds of deaths nationwide by Amnesty International.
The Taser lawsuit settlement resolves a complaint filed against the city of Moberly over the death of Stanley Harlan, who was struck with a Taser three times for resisting attempts to handcuff him following a stop for suspected drunk driving. Harlan lost consciousness after being jolted with the stun gun and died a short time later.
Insurance coverage for the city will pay $2.4 million to Harlan’s family, including his infant son, as a result of the alleged police brutality and excessive use of force. City officials also agreed to enforce a moratorium on Taser use by the Moberly Police Department. In addition, Moberly police will be trained to recognize and respond to medical distress situations, and the city will provide at least one on-duty patrol unit with an automatic external defibrillator.
Taser guns are designed to incapacitate neuromuscular functions by delivering an electrical shock. Many law enforcement agencies use the weapons as an alternative to lethal force in situations where suspects pose a threat.
The city did not admit fault as part of the settlement, and no criminal charges have been filed against police officers. An investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the FBI found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Last year, Amnesty International called for a police departments throughout the United States to stop using Taser guns or strictly limit their use to life-threatening situations. A report released last December by the human rights group linked 334 deaths to the use of Taser guns between 2001 and August 2008. Amnesty noted that 90% of the Taser deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat to the officers. A large number of the fatalities involved misuse of the weapons, including multiple Taser shocks or exposing suspects to prolonged shocks.
Taser International, which manufactures the controversial stun guns, has maintained that the weapons are safe and non-lethal devices. They were not a party to the lawsuit or the settlement.