September 25, 2008

"Assistance Was Her Son Being Killed"

Here is yet another sad death from the growing use of tasers. You can find other posts by clicking on the work “tasers” in the tags section under the article. A big problem is Tasers' misleading publicity which encourages people to think they are benign, safe devises. Some will argue Mr. Morales’ death was caused by the fall. More important for the police, however, would be to think about what kind of impact routine use of force has on citizens.
How can we teach our children to respect police officers instead of fearing them? With headlines like these, it seems impossible. I’ve read through the coverage from the AP, NY Times, Newsday, USA Today and watched the NY Post video. Since each report leaves something out, I’ve collected the missing bits to provide maximum detail. Here are the headlines, links and the different ways this story has been reported.
Brooklyn Man Dies After Police Use a Taser Gun
Published: September 24, 2008
A naked and apparently emotionally disturbed man fell to his death from a building ledge in Brooklyn on Wednesday after an officer shot him with a Taser stun gun, the police said. The police and witnesses said he had been yelling at passers-by and swinging a long light bulb tube at officers before he fell.
The man, identified by the police as Inman Morales, 35, was taken to Kings County Hospital Center with serious head trauma after falling about 10 feet to the ground, witnesses said. He was later pronounced dead, officials said.
Mr. Morales’s death on Wednesday afternoon was another episode in the controversial history of Taser use in the city. While Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has looked cautiously on the use of stun gun technology by the Police Department, he recently said he was open to broadening the use of the weapons after a city-commissioned study on police shooting habits urged the department to consider using Tasers more frequently instead of deadly force [my bold] when applicable.
[…] “It was a dead man’s fall,” said a witness, Charlene Gordon, the property manager for the four-story brown-brick building at 489 Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where Mr. Morales rented a third-floor apartment.
Ms. Gordon said that another tenant in the building told her that she had heard Mr. Morales screaming in his apartment, and then saw him in the hall acting strangely. Ms. Gordon talked to his mother during the standoff, and she told Ms. Gordon that she had not seen her son in a couple of days. She also said he had stopped taking his medication, [my bold] Ms. Gordon said.
Mr. Morales’s mother went to the building, where she found her son out of control, witnesses said. About 3 p.m., she called 911.
[…] “He was naked and he kept screaming,” said Joseph Adrien, who works at a nearby dry cleaners. Another witness said Mr. Morales’s mother was kept off to the side, pleading with the police to let her calm her son’s nerves, but being told repeatedly that it was now a police matter.
For about 30 minutes, Mr. Morales yelled that he did not want anyone touching him, and the police yelled back that they wanted him to come down, witnesses said. Then, an officer approached the man on his perch and fired the Taser at him.
Ms. Gordon said that Mr. Morales had lived in the building for about three years. She described him as quiet and neat. He had previously worked in the financial industry, but had been receiving rent subsidies, [my bold] she said.
[…] City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said in a telephone interview that the situation could have been handled better by the police.
[…] “A situation like that is never going to end in a good way,” Mr. Vallone said after watching the video. “The most important thing is that no innocent bystanders or police got hurt. But clearly, it could have been handled better.”
[…] In the early 1980s, the police were condemned for using them to force drug suspects to confess. [my bold] Mr. Kelly, then a deputy inspector, was assigned to reform the police practices.
The study on police shootings, which urged the department to consider expanding its use of Tasers, was conducted by the RAND Corporation and commissioned seven weeks after the shooting of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets in Queens on his wedding day in November 2006.
The chief spokesman for the Police Department, Paul J. Browne, said Mr. Morales’s death was under investigation. Department guidelines say an officer may use a Taser if an emotionally disturbed person is a danger to himself or to others. Emergency service units may use it in an emergency without direction, or, as on Wednesday, at the direction of an emergency unit supervisor on the scene, Mr. Browne said.
Currently, emergency service unit officers use the Taser about 300 times a year, mainly when responding to some of the 80,000 calls regarding emotionally disturbed people, officials said.
The handgun-shaped device […] got a higher profile in the department in June when Mr. Kelly announced that Tasers would also be used by sergeants on patrol, who would carry them on their belts [my bold] instead of keeping them in the trunk of their cars.
Mr. Browne said that officers responding to a situation in which someone is threatening to jump from a building or other high structure will routinely request an inflatable bag to help break the jumper’s fall. But he said that Mr. Morales was only about 10 feet [my bold] from the sidewalk, and that it was unclear whether a bag had been requested but had not made it to the scene on time, or whether it had not been requested at all. Mr. Browne said the matter would be explored as part of the investigation.
“His mother called 911,” said Sharonnie Perry, a community advocate who lives down the street. “She called for assistance and the assistance she got was her son being killed.” [my bold]
Man falls to death after police stun gun shock
The Associated Press, 3 hours ago
[…] It also raised questions over why Morales was shocked with the stun gun when there was no inflatable bag placed on the sidewalk to catch him if he fell.
"They didn't try to brace his fall. They did nothing. I've seen a lot of things in my time. But what they did was wrong," said neighbor Kirk Giddens, 39, in Thursday editions of the Daily News.
[…] Thousands of city police sergeants began carrying Tasers on their belts this year. The pistol-shaped weapons fire barbs up to 35 feet and deliver 50,000-volt shocks [my bold] to immobilize people.
Naked man falls to his death after cop uses stun gun
[…] "When they Tasered him, he froze and pitched forward. He fell on his head," witness Ernestine Croom tells the Daily News . "They didn't put out a mattress or a net or anything."

Last updated: 12:09 pmSeptember 25, 2008
[…] "His body froze up and he fell face-first," said Sean Johnson, who witnessed the drama at 489 Tompkins Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
[….] A New York Police Department lieutenant was stripped of his gun and badge, and the officer who used the stun gun on the man was placed on administrative duty Thursday, officials said.
[…] "He just fell face first," said witness Sean Brown. "People were screaming and yelling. It was wrong."
It was unclear what set off the episode, but, said Johnson, "once he started hitting the cop with that pole, that's when it turned serious."
Morales had one prior arrest, for a Manhattan petit larceny. [my bold]
"This is very out of character," said the building's superintendent, Charlene Gayle, 31.
"Nice guy, clean cut, well kept, never irrational. Didn't have irrational behavior."

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