At least three California men have died during the past week after they were shot by police with Taser stun guns, prompting calls for restrictions on the popular law-enforcement tool.
Dwayne Zachary, a 44-year-old Sacramento County man, died at Mercy San Juan Medical Center after he was shot several times with a stun gun during a fight with sheriff’s deputies late Thursday night, authorities said.
Police said they fired at Zachary after he began throwing furniture and a glass photo frame at officers responding to a report that he had beaten a woman.
Zachary was the fifth Sacramento area man in two years to die after being shot with a Taser, which delivers a strong electric shock. But the county coroner’s office has not blamed any of the deaths on the stun gun, which is manufactured by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International.
Members of Zachery’s family said officers used too much force. “Dwayne didn’t have a bad attitude,” said Oscar Daniels, Zachary’s nephew. “He was only violent when you did something toward him.”
Eric Mahoney, 33, of Alameda, died at Washington Hospital in Fremont Wednesday night, five days after he was shot numerous times with a Taser as he attempted to climb a wall to escape police.
The Alameda County coroner’s office has conducted an autopsy and is waiting for toxicology test results to determine what contributed to or caused his death.
Mahoney’s sister, Karen Moreland, 50, of Alameda, said Friday she believes police were directly responsible for killing her brother. “In my book, if you’re running away, you’re not causing imminent danger to anyone else,” she said.
Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler said Friday that Mahoney, who had a history of drug use, had resisted police orders during a dangerous call for service and had reasons to believe that the suspect might be armed.
Brian Patrick O’Neil, 33, of San Jose, died Monday after police used a Taser on him during a confrontation. Similar incidents have been reported in Santa Rosa, Pacifica, Vallejo and Salinas over the past year.
Mark Schlosberg, police practices policy director with the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco, said more research is needed to understand how Tasers affect suspected drug users. He said more than 140 people nationwide have died after being shot by the device since 2001.
“We do not advocate for a complete ban on Taser,” Schlosberg said. “We think that Tasers should only be used as an alternative to deadly force.”