Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Non-lethal force means lethal, sometimes

This time, a Texan has died from police use of "non-lethal" force by police. In October, a young woman was killed when Boston police fired "non-lethal" rounds into a crowd of celebrating Red Sox fans over their Game 7 win against the New York Yankees. Now, Robert Guerrero, a 21-year old man from Fort Worth, has died after being shot with a Taser by police last week. Reported the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

"He was the first suspect to die after being shot with the Taser by Fort Worth police since the department began using the weapons in 2001.

"Police had gone to the North View apartment complex in the 2400 block of Clinton Avenue about 2:05 p.m. after a call from property manager Rosemary Granado.

"She said Guerrero was illegally running electricity to an apartment where a young woman and child were staying because it was cold.

"'That meter had been tampered with three times before, and a fire could have spread through the building,' Granado said.

"Lt. Abdul Pridgen, a police spokesman, said two members of the north Crime Response Team followed the electrical lines to an apartment where the occupants eventually told the police that the person they were looking for was hiding in a closet.

"'The officers went over to the closet and asked the person to come out. They did not get a response,' Pridgen said. 'They opened the door and saw the suspect crouched down in the closet.'

"Pridgen said the officers again ordered the man out, but he did not reply, even after the officers threatened to use a Taser.

"When Guerrero continued to ignore the police, officer P.R. Genualdo, a six-year veteran of the department, shot Guerrero in the chest with a Taser, Pridgen said."

Alright, at this point Grits must interject to point out that, if they weren't in possession of these shiny new non-lethal gadgets, the officers would have reached down and dragged the unarmed suspect out of the closet, just like I've once or twice done with a recalcitrant daughter. But that doesn't explain this:

"With Guerrero still in the closet, Genualdo pulled the Taser's trigger at least once more, Pridgen said. Police then took Guerrero into custody and handcuffed him, Pridgen said.

"After carrying Guerrero out of the apartment, the officers noticed that he had stopped breathing, Pridgen said. Paramedics were called, and the officers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until Guerrero was taken to JPS.

"Neighbor Louis Perez said that he watched police from a hallway in the apartment and that Guerrero appeared "lifeless" after being shot with the Taser.

"They drug him down the stairs, and his head kept hitting the steps," Perez said.

"Rachel Davila, who also lives at the complex, said that as police dragged Guerrero down the steps, his lips turned blue and his eyes rolled back before he quit breathing.

"Genualdo, 35, has been placed on routine restricted duty while the department's major-case unit investigates, said major-case Sgt. Rene Kamper.

"Pridgen said Taser use is allowed on unarmed suspects, like Guerrero, if the officer has probable cause for an arrest and believes that efforts to control a suspect by hand would result in someone getting hurt."

I'm in favor of non-lethal technologies if they're non-lethal. But what we have now in law enforcement is a vendor-driven effort to put new gadgets in officers hands with little regard for uniform training, specifications, or standards for use. One vendor advertises tasers will "drop an attacker with a vengeance." That's not the mentality I want to promote in the law enforcement ranks, but I'm sure it sells Tasers. Vendors aren't the only motivator, though. Police unions frequently demand "non-lethal" technologies to divert attention from incidents of excessive force by their own officers. Plus, everybody likes to play with a new gadget.

It's like your Mom told you, though, sure, it's fun, until somebody gets hurt.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What type of reaction did you think the police officer had to have jolted the victim that many times? I ask that because in the officer's defense, they are focusing on that moment, what type of threat the victim was imposing on himself and his fellow officers. I would appreciate feedback regarding this. Thank you.