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North Carolina couple files lawsuit over son's death

The city of Charlotte faces legal action after a 21-year-old man died when police officers shocked him with a Taser in 2011. The wrongful death lawsuit, which the man's parents filed in federal court in North Carolina, accuses a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer of using excessive force against the victim; the plaintiffs claim the officer used a Taser to fatally shock their son as he was attempting to calm down his girlfriend, who had begun to physically attack him. The lawsuit also names Taser International, the manufacturer of the popular stun gun, as a defendant.

The death at the center of the case happened just one day after a North Carolina jury awarded the family of another Taser attack victim $10 million in damages. The city of Charlotte agreed to pay that family a sum a $625,000 after the man was shocked by a police officer and died, though it rejected claims that it was at fault for the death.

The recent claim cites the 2008 case as evidence of the danger posed by Tasers, also pointing to medical studies showing that shocks delivered by the devices can be fatal in certain cases. The lawsuit argues that Tasers are potentially deadly weapons and should be restricted to instances in which police deem appropriate to use deadly force to subdue a suspect. The plaintiffs contend that officers in both the 2008 and 2011 incidents used their Tasers "in a dangerous and reckless manner."

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department suspended its use of Tasers after the 2011 death while it examined the devices for potential safety flaws. The CMPD spent $1.83 million on new Tasers six months later. Although the new devices deliver the same amount of electricity, they reportedly have additional fail-safes designed to prevent fatalities and serious injuries. The plaintiffs have asked a judge to permanently ban the use of Tasers by the CMPD.

Source: WCNC.com, "Family sues over Taser death," Gary L. Wright & Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., Dec. 18, 2012

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