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Stun Gun Cited In Prisoner's Death

Jul 26, 2004 | CBS News

It's not often that a camera records a man's death, but, as CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports, that's what's happened in an Indiana jail.

As 47-year-old James Borden hits the ground, officer David Shaw is shocking him with a 50,000-volt Taser stun gun.

According to medical records, Shaw used the Taser at least six times before Borden died.

This was the straw that broke the camel's back.

The coroner, Dr. Roland Kohr, called the Taser shock partly responsible for Borden's death. He found that Borden had heart disease and toxic levels of two drugs, but that the stress from the Taser is what pushed him off edge.

"The application of the Taser was the trigger factor which stressed an already damaged heart to the point that it went into cardiac arrest," says Kohr. "The Taser is what triggered his heart attack."

Kohr's autopsy has sent its own shockwaves because it directly contradicts safety claims made by the company.

"The Taser is not involved and has not caused a death," says Taser CEO Rick Smith.

Smith remains adamant the weapon has never been blamed for a death, even in the face of Kohr's ruling and even as the number of Taser-related fatalities has now passed 50.

"I rely on the advice of medical experts who have told me there is absolutely no basis to conclude the Taser contributed to this man's death," says Smith.

In all its public statements, Taser Corp. tells investors and the police agencies that buy the weapon that Taser has never caused a death. However, CBS News first reported more than three months ago how an Indiana autopsy found that Taser was a contributing factor in the Borden death.

Yet, on Taser's Web site, where the company keeps a list of the fatalities and all the official findings that exonerate the weapon, you won't find the opinion from Kohr.

Every other time a medical examiner has ruled in its favor, the company includes it in a grid on its Web site. But Kohr's findings were left out.

Asked why, Smith says, "They were disputed by our medical experts who read them and thought they were inaccurate."

Nationwide, the Taser is more popular than ever. Police believe it saves lives by ending confrontations short of gunfire. But Kohr, who agrees the Taser is generally safe, believes that on the wrong person, it's more deadly than the company claims.


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