Man Dies After Police Use Taser to Subdue Him

The headline at ABC read:
Man Dies After Police Use Taser to Subdue Him

The police responded to a call to a psychiatric emergency by family members. They found a distressed naked man in an apartment hallway in Virginia. He was combative and did not respond to their directives. A taser was used to subdue him. But he fell to the ground and stopped breathing. Then, he died.

The taser is the issue in most discussions. But I think the real problem was the psychiatric prescriptions the victim was no doubt taking. The prescriptions probably made him unable to respond to the police because they interfere with normal brain function. And I believe that he was always dressed in public before he started taking the psychiatric prescriptions. His religious affiliation was not mentioned.

I think the FDA has to crack down on psychiatry and its prescription power.

I think this is the news story you are referring to:

There doesn’t seem to be any indication of why the man was behaving as he did. However, its not uncommon for persons with severe mental illness to stop taking their medications when they feel better… only to relapse into severe mental distress.

In other incidents when tasered persons died, alcohol or drugs were involved. And mentally ill persons often “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol to make themselves feel better, which can lead to strange behavior.

I don’t think we know enough about the incident to say why he was behaving as he did, or why he died.

That is true, but, at least one article mentions that his family called in a psychiatric emergency which implies that there was a mental health problem.

Where to focus attention is on the behavior before prescriptions were started. That is how to determine whether or not the prescriptions are a factor in strange behavior.

The real problem here are police using a taser on a mentally ill man not in control of his faculties. There was no other way to subdue him? There were many of them and one of him. Tasers should be used as a last resort for a police officer to protect themselves from harm by violent offenders. It’s not the first time a taser killed someone.

Also, huge numbers of people take psychiatric drugs with positive effects. Psychiatric drugs can have rare side effects in some people (just like other medications can), but generally they help rather than harm people.

I can easily imagine how sick with horror his family must have been when their plea for assistance resulted in a death. It must have been obvious to the police that the man had no weapons.

I don’t know where you got your statistic. Have you never read any books by Peter Breggin, for one? There are huge numbers of persons who experience negative (even unto death) effects from treatment with psychiatric prescriptions. I think the term ‘side effects’ is a misnomer; these are the plain old regular effects of use.

cum hoc ergo propter hoc***

I think that the most likely culprit is that this poor gentleman went off his medicine, or for some reason couldn’t get it.


Dr. Breggin is a psychiatrist who has published quite a few books against the use of psychiatric medications, and has been a guest on a few television shows. Although he may be right about the over prescription of anti-depressants and the over prescription of Ritalin for children, he goes well beyond those positions to declare that psychiatric medications are rarely justified. He believes that better results, across the board, can be achieved with counseling and social interventions. Needless to say, his views are outside of the mainstream.

Although counseling and social interventions do have their place, I don’t think they work any better now then they did before the advent of psychiatric drugs in the 1950s. I wasn’t around before then, but everything I have read suggests that mentally ill people led much worse lives.

I think it much more likely that the uncontrolled behavior occurred because he started taking psychiatric prescriptions in the first place. Most likely he never exhibited similar behavior before the prescriptions were started.

If I interpret correctly, that “with this, therefore because of this” fallacy works both ways in this instance.

I did not vote because my opinion has no value as I am not a doctor or psychiatrist nor have I any experience caring for psychotic patients on drugs. Until a post mortem is done and the truth about the person’s medical condition and cause of death are established I doubt if debate among uninformed persons will enlighten the landscape.

what I do know because it is an area where I have way too much experience, is that if the police respond to a true psychiatric emergency, it means someone is posing an immediate danger to life and safety of himself and/or other people, not just that he is waking the neighbors.

Breggin is not alone in his objections. There are other medical professionals who have written criticisms against psychiatry, including, R. D. Laing, Jeffrey Masson, and Thomas Szasz.

I think there is incredible denial by professional psychiatrists about the actual effects of their prescription treatments. In all the news reports about recent violent crimes that have been perpetrated by mental health clients, there is never a suggestion that psychiatry is at fault. It is always implied that the client’s mental instability is the problem.

Your opinion may not have value; but you do have the right to express it, even on medical matters.

We’ve had PLENTY of people die from tasering in Canada who were not medicated only agitated.What happened to saps or the billy club?Break a leg or an arm,instead.Canadian studies have shown that the voltage and amperage varies greatly from weapon to weapon.Personally,I feel they are misused because the cop doesn’t want to get his/her hair mussed or risk injury.That’s what you get for hiring shrimps as police officers.

They are to often used as means of compliance or ensuring docility rather than dealing with actual threat.The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are severely restricted from their use after tasering an agitated non-english speaking immigrant to death at an airport.The Mounties lied through their teeth(it was all captured on tape)and it was sadistic and predatory and they are about to get their butts sued off-the cops and the force.

Officers were called to the Wildwood Park apartment complex in the 5500 block of Columbia Pike about 12:40 a.m. Friday by family members who reported a psychiatric emergency.

“A psychiatric emergency” is what the officers had to go in heading in. I don’t know but I assume that includes anything from a suicide attempt to someone hallucinating that his wife is trying to kill him and defending himself with a butcher knife to what it sounds like here, someone yelling, screaming, possibly threatening.

“If the officer feels they are in danger, or someone else is in danger, then they can deploy the Taser,” Griffith said.

How much danger? I suspect that cops sometimes use Tasers to enforce compliance rather than true defense of self/others.
As for using a billy club, sap or whatever – cops know they will be criticised no matter what. They were trying for a non-headline:
Cop Tasers Crazy, Transports Safely to Psych Ward
rather than:
Cop Clubs Mental Patient: Suspended Pending Investigation

Again, the devil is in the details but if Mr Jouamai’s “threat” consisted of verbal threats, obscenities, arm-flailing, refusing to comply w/police they might have been able to deal w/him effectively if they had more patience and the proper training.

As for psychotropic drugs, many have very severe side effects – it’s easy for Drs to say, “Well, yes, but the disorder is so severe that prescribing the drug is justified.” but for the patient it can be hell.

For years age 5-20, I was on phenobarb for my epilepsy and I really didn’t recognise the side effects until I was off it.
Btw, I hope I never get tased – not sure what 50,000 volts would do to my nervous system & have no wish to find out.

PS – the poll should include “I know someone whose symptoms have improved but suffers severe side effects” or refuses to take meds due to side effects.

Makes sense. Back in 1990 My Godfather who is diagnosed as paranoid, schzizophrenic and bipolar took himself off his meds. When the mailman put his SSI chedck in the wrong mailbox he thought it was a conspiracy against him and took out his hunting rifle and began shooting at the mail man, which eventually led to a 5 hour standoff. When he is on his meds he is more calm than Dr Jekyl, and when off the meds he makes Mr Hyde look like a meek pussycat. I am all for propperly prescribed psychiatric meds and anyone who is against them doesn’t have a clue.

This is my experience as well. I have to deal with a lot of mental health patients. Everyone that I have dealt with that has gone through a crisis, be they suicidal or violent, has done so as a result of discontinuing medication on their own, not as a side effect of medication. It is simply not possible to know whether too much medication is prescribed, as each patient is a case unto himself. I do know that many people I have dealt with can function in society only with the assistance of psychiatric medication.

How about both? :shrug: I mean, I do know people who have had ill effects as the result of psychiatric medication (like myself) but most of those ill effects have been pretty minor. As far as people who have had no ill effects, well, it depends on the medicine. There are some medicines out there that I either take or have taken in the past that cause me no ill effects like this.

I am all for more strict FDA regulation of prescription medications and especially critical medications such as psychiatric medications and heart medications but of course, more strict FDA regulation would probably up the costs of the medicine. However, if doing this would save lives, it’d be well worth it in my opinion.

Exactly. I know the case you are talking about, a Polish men named Dziekanski, who was tasered to death at the Vancouver BC airport. The man was unarmed, he was agitated but didn’t threaten anybody, and when four Mounties came to the scene, they tasered him several times until he died.

Tasers are the biggest scam I have seen in a while. Taser International lied to us, and the police lied to us. They promised to use tasers instead of guns, in cases in which the use of lethal weapons is justified. But that’s not what they are doing, they are using the damn tasers as cattle prods, or remote controls, and compliance devices.

In the case of Robert Dziekanski, the Mounties lied that the man attacked them. Fortunately, a passenger recorded with his cell phone video camera the whole incident. There were four police officers against one unarmed, non-threatening man, and they tased away and murdered this man, tasing him several times until he stopped moving. Then, they had the gall to confiscate the other passenger’s video recording, and lie about what happened, but fortunately the passenger sued, got back his recording, and promptly released it to the public.

Just search youtube - it’s full of videos showing the police tasing 70-year old senior citizens, 12-y.o. girls, handcuffed women (!!!) - it will make your stomach turn.

What the police does with tasers, is disgusting. Don’t tell me that a handcuffed woman is so threatening that you are justified in using lethal weapons against her. And that’s what the police told us, that tasers are going to be used instead of lethal weapons (guns), as a less lethal alternative.

I believe tasers should be banned as a standard issue weapon for the police force, because of the rampant abuse of these weapons. I wouldn’t mind giving tasers to special units within the police force, with the condition that the tasers should indeed be used strictly as a substitute to fire weapons, and those who use the tasers when the use of fire arms is not justified, should be fired from their jobs and sent to jail.

Here’s a statistic from the TNT (Truth Not Tasers) website:

"ONE Canadian and FIFTY-SEVEN Americans died in 2009 after they were tasered by police, including a 16-YEAR-OLD BOY, a 15-YEAR-OLD boy - and a 17-YEAR OLD boy who became AT LEAST the FIFTH 17-year-old to die in North America proximal to the taser used by police.

At least SEVENTY-TWO North Americans died in 2008, including FIVE Canadians. At least SEVENTY-NINE North Americans died in 2007 after they were tasered by police, FIVE of them Canadian. 2006 (80), 2005 (77), 2004 (57), 2003 (20), 2002 (13), 2001 (4), 2000 (1), 1999 (1). In total, at least 485 people have died in North America proximal to police use of tasers since 1999. TWENTY-EIGHT people have died in Canada since 2003 after police used tasers on them. One person has died in Britain. Three Australians and one Mexican (that I know of) have died after they were tasered.

According to Taser International, the taser had nothing to do with any of these deaths. According to Amnesty International (December 16, 2008), the taser has been identified as either a cause or contributing factor in at least 50 of them. That number would be higher; however medical examiners and coroners are often not impartial but are instead biased in favour of the Crown or, as has been shown, they are under tremendous pressure from - among others - Taser International, to make a particular finding."

This is not true. Taser has never claimed their device was non-lethal. They have consistently used the phrase less than lethal. There is no control method, including open hand control that is non-lethal. Before Tasers there were deaths from choke holds, suffocation from being placed on the chest and heart attacks (yes, they occur without Tasers).

Hi PNewton, there is a misunderstanding here. I was making the point that Taser International and the Police bait-and-switched us, and in this sense the tasers are the biggest scam. They bait-and-switched us, because they never told us, “we want to introduce tasers so that we can tase unarmed 12-year old girls who try to run away from us, as well as unarmed, handcuffed women, as a way to teach them a lesson, when they don’t behave”. This is NOT what they told us, but this is what they are doing. They LIED to us, telling “we need the tasers so that we can use them INSTEAD OF firearms, and save lives by tasing instead of shooting people”. This is the scam they pulled on us. And it’s time for We the People to stand up, and take away this dangerous toy from law enforcement agencies.

Although it was not my original intention, but since you brought up the point that “Taser has never claimed their device was non-lethal. They have consistently used the phrase less than lethal.”, here’s another scam by Taser International: they have been aggressively suing coroners, bringing personal lawsuits against them, whenever these coroners found that the use of taser guns was involved in the deaths of people. They don’t sue the Coroner’s Offices, they sue the coroners themselves. This is also well documented by Amnesty International and others. This is blatant intimidation, and it is yet another scam intended to mislead the public. Taser International is aggressively trying to intimidate, silence, and on the other hand to bribe, coroners who do the investigation on tasered people who died subsequent to the use of tasers. This is another scam intended to mislead the public, by bullying the coroners and thus influencing the findings of investigations in taser deaths, so that Taser International can claim that tasers are less lethal than they are in reality.

Finally, let’s just consider these two things side by side: “Taser has never claimed their device was non-lethal. They have consistently used the phrase less than lethal.” (quoting you); and the fact that the police routinely uses tasers on people who do not constitute a threat, such as 12-year old girls, handcuffed women, and pregnant women.

So, why are they tasing handcuffed women, if the tasers are not non-lethal? Is it OK to kill handcuffed women, and 12-year old girls, if they don’t behave?

Four hundred eightyfive. 485. That’s the number of deaths in North America, subsequent to the use of tasers, documented by the Truth Not Tasers website, since 1999 when tasers were introduced. And how many other deaths, that were not documented by Truth Not Tasers? Hundreds more? Thousands more?

I disagree with the majority of what you said, but I am going to let it go. The original poster made it clear that he did not want this turn into a Taser discussion. I will honor that wish.

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