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Taser Ruled Partial Cause of Ohio Man's Death

Feb 23, 2005 | AP

The medical examiner in Akron has ruled that the police use of a Taser electronic restraint contributed to the death of a drug-using man who struggled with officers in a home invasion. The ruling came yesterday in the January 5th death of 30-year-old Dennis Hyde of Hartville.

In a separate ruling, the prosecutor said the use of the Taser against Hyde was justified.

The medical examiner says other factors in the man's death include his use of methamphetamine and the loss of blood from a cut suffered from a home break-in. When police arrived, Hyde said he was the devil and threatened to kill the officers and the homeowner.

Tasers fire metal barbs attached by a wire that deliver 50,000 volts of electrical charge for five seconds. The idea is to temporarily immobilize suspects so that officers can gain control.

Tasers have also been in the news in Lucas County. Sheriff James Telb suspended his department's use of Tasers, just weeks after a man was shocked nine times by authorities and died within minutes of the final jolt. Jeffrey Turner, 41, of Toledo, died Jan. 31 after he was shocked five times by Toledo police and four times a few hours later by sheriff's correction officers at the jail.

Lucas County Sheriff James Telb said that he also wants a policy requiring any suspect shocked by a Taser to pass a medical examination at a hospital before being booked into the county jail.

"Many times we do that now," said Richard Keller of the Lucas County Sheriff's Department. "If an inmate is injured when they come in here prior to booking we have our nurses look at them and if it's a medical decision, we still have the arresting officer take that person to a medical facility. But I think that's the direction, way we're gonna go."

Telb said the device will not be used until he receives more results from safety studies. He said his officers have used Tasers about a dozen times since they went into service last year.

Telb said no policy violations were committed in Turner's death and no administrative or criminal charges would be filed by his office. The Lucas County coroner's office said the cause of death remains inconclusive pending the results of toxicology tests and further investigation.

The family of Jeffery Turner reacted strongly about the new procedures in Lucas County concerning Tasers. Turner's brother Shawn Turner said the new policy is a step in the right direction but it's two weeks too late and more can be done. "I think [Sheriff Telb] should have pulled those Tasers immediately instead of waiting two more weeks," said Shawn.

Shawn told News 11 he's done research on Taser-related deaths around the country and in the world. He says he's done some math about his brother being hit nine times at 50,000 volts a pop. "When I see that, that's over the limit, that's extreme. That's excessive, that's ridiculous," he told us.

Shawn likens the sheriff's new policy on Tasers to recalls on bad cars. "Now it's a problem, so they bring it to the public and recall the car. Just like these people, these people are dying, too many people dying in a short amount of time. I think we have a problem now we should look into it," he said.

Meanwhile, the Toledo Police Department will continue using Tasers at least for the time being. Police Chief Mike Navarre tells us he has sent two letters out, one to the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the other to the attorney general. Both letters ask for an independent study into the safety of Tasers. The department has used Tasers at least 225 times to subdue suspects in Toledo.

Amnesty International said in a report last November that at least 74 people have died in the United States and Canada in the past four years after being shocked with Tasers. The manufacturer, Scottsdale, Arizona-based Taser International Inc., has said the device is among the safest ways to subdue a violent person.

Taser International, Inc. has said all along it has done extensive research, its products are safe and have never been the sole reason someone has died.

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