Thursday, November 19, 2009

Taser Linked To Death

Not that we didn't know that already, but it's always affirming to see it in print:

A Taser that twice shocked Brian Cardall contributed to or caused heart irregularities in the 32-year-old man that led to his death on the side of southern Utah highway in June, the Utah Medical Examiner's Office has ruled.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Erik Christensen cited "ventricular fibrillation following conducted energy weapon deployment during a manic episode with psychotic features" as Cardall's cause of death.

The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a copy of the autopsy report Thursday from an attorney representing the Cardalls. The family chose to release the autopsy after Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap announced he will not prosecute the officer who deployed a Taser on Cardall.

Belnap said Hurricane police Officer Ken Thompson was justified in using a Taser on Cardall as the man suffered a manic episode June 9.

The Cardall family disagrees with Belnap's decision, said Karra Porter, who is advising the Cardalls on their legal options in the wake of Belnap's decision.

Christensen's report states that prongs from a Taser deployed by a Hurricane police officer struck Cardall over his heart. While Christensen acknowledged other factors could have contributed to Cardall's death, he pointed out several factors that indicate a Taser electrocuted a naked, unarmed Cardall.

"While it is generally acknowledged that [Taser] use is safe and represents an extremely low risk due to the electrical activity of the weapon, the circumstances in this case represent a combination of the factors that are believed to increase the risk of a potential electrical death," Christensen's report reads.

"These include the placement of the barbs over the cardiac axis, the penetration of the barbs deeply into a thin chest wall directly over the heart, absence of intervening clothing and more than one cycle of electrical stimulation.

"Additionally, the initial cardiac rhythm of ventricular fibrillation is consistent with findings seen in cases of electrocution," Christensen wrote.

The conclusion that the X-26 Taser, manufactured by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International, played a significant role in Cardall's death is a bold finding by Christensen.

While Taser International has claimed its products are not risk free, the company has publicly stated its products do not cause cardiac arrest. It has filed numerous lawsuits against medical examiners across the country who have cited Tasers as a cause of death.

Get that bolded bit? Note "placement of the barbs" and "consistent with findings seen in cases of electrocution.