The Electric Pencil

18th Canadian dies after being shot with Taser

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When will they be banned?

18 people have died after being shocked with Tasers in Canada since 2003 – six of those in the last ten months. The latest? 17-year-old Michael Langan of Winnipeg, Manitoba, on July 22.

From CBC.ca:

Two citizens flagged down police officers about 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, saying they were following someone they had seen stealing property from a vehicle parked in the 1100 block of Notre Dame Avenue.

Officers located a suspect in the area behind a house in the 800 block of William Avenue, near Arlington Street.

The teen was “brandishing a knife,” police said Wednesday, and refused to obey repeated commands to put the weapon down.

“That poses a threat to the officers, that poses a threat to other members of the public, and officers made the decision to deploy the electronic control device to ensure public safety as well as their own safety,” said police spokeswoman Const. Jacqueline Chaput.

One officer deployed a Taser. The teen was admitted to hospital in critical condition and died shortly after.

The Winnipeg police commissioner has called the incident tragic and announced an investigation will be carried out by another police force, as is the case with all fatal police incidents. Flagan’s mother, who wasn’t immediately told her son had died, and Amnesty International Canada have called for a moratorium on the weapons.

Taser International, and most police, have continued to argue that the stun guns are non-lethal, with only 1,500 of the possible 50,000 volts from the gun making it into a victims body. Recently, though, the RCMP admitted that the Taser is simply a less-lethal tool, and not necessarily beyond killing an individual, directly or indirectly. The RCMP reviewed it’s policy on Tasers after the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant to Canada who died after being tasered by RCMP officers in the Vancouver airport. Stricter rules now apply to the use of Tasers, but the weapon has not been banned.

Proponents point to 100,000 police officers who have survived volunteer taserings. But most people hit by tasers are not fit, stationary, calm police officers. They are often in agitated states, some with drugs or alcohol in their system. While it may not directly kill people, if it is primarily used on people already in an agitated or stressed state, shouldn’t this be taken into account?

At least some people think so: The Saskatchewan correctional system has announced it would not be arming it’s prison guards with Tasers because large numbers of inmates are in poor enough health that there is a heightened chance they could die.

The Canadian Press has published a list of those who have died in Canada after being shot by a Taser.

Written by Tim McSorley

July 24, 2008 at 9:41 pm

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