Aug. 2, 2005 – An Illinois coroner became the first to determine that shocks from a Taser weapon were the primary cause of death of a human being, though the controversial devices have been implicated in scores of fatalities across the country.
Cook County Deputy Medical Examiner Scott Denton said that while he could not confirm that the Taser shot alone killed the 54-year-old man this past February due to the presence of large amounts of methamphetamine in his blood, the unusually long shock was the main factor in the manâ€™s death, the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday. A police sergeant shocked Ronald Hasse for 57 seconds with a Taser while attempting to subdue him, the paper reported.
A 2004 Amnesty International report on Tasers found more than 70 mortalities involving Tasers in the United States and Canada since 2001. The Arizona Republic has found 140 such incidents from 1999 to present; in eighteen of those, medical examiners have cited Tasers as having contributed to deaths.
Just yesterday, a 33-year-old man in San Jose, California died after police used pepper spray and a Taser on him during a prolonged struggle, the Associated Press reports. Other localities dealing with recent cases where deaths followed the use of Tasers by police officers include Lancaster County, South Carolina New York and Atlanta.
Taser International, the company that manufactures the weapon, disputes claims that Tasers have been the cause of or even a contributing factor in any deaths. A number of law enforcement officials and officers endorse the use of Tasers, and according to the company, over 7,000 individual law enforcement agencies use the weapon.
The company maintains that the product is a safe and effective tool for law enforcement agencies and said it will challenge the Cook County report in court, the Tribune reported.