Bay area taser ''victims'' react to study criticizing weapons

7:12 PM, May 1, 2012   |    comments
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Clearwater, Florida -- It's the first-of-its-kind study to suggest what critics have long suspected. Scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that taser guns, long touted as non-lethal weapons, can cause cardiac arrest and death.

People living here in the Bay area hope the article may lead to changes at local law enforcement agencies that use the weapons.

At least two incidents involving law enforcement's use of a tasers have come under scrutiny in the past year in Tampa Bay.

In Pinellas Park, an FHP trooper was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing after firing his taser at Danielle Maudsley.

The young woman was trying to escape from the FHP substation - still in handcuffs. Maudsley fell, striking her head on the pavement. The incident has left her in a vegetative state.

"This is common sense meets a new study and I don't think it's surprising anyone in the business who knows how a taser works," said Maudsley's attorney, Kevin Hayslett.

Given the findings, Hayslett predicts within five to ten years tasers will be phased out at many departments, going the way of batons, pepper spray.

"Especially where we're getting unintended consequences," said Hayslett, "People dying. People having heart attacks. People having seizures."

The article itself is published in Circulation, which is the American Heart Association's premier journal. In it, Dr. Douglas Zipes looked at eight cases involving the commonly used Taser X-26 E-C-D.

Zipes' conclusion?

"ECD stimulation can cause cardiac electric capture and provoke cardiac arrest."

The Heart Association calls this a credible report, which should remind police and others who use tasers that they should also know how perform CPR and use an automated external defibulator in case the person shot has a heart attack.

The study's findings are what relatives of 38-year-old James Barnes have suspected all along.

Barnes died in March just days after a Pinellas County deputy fired a taser at him three times during a scuffle at Honeymoon Island Beach.

"They should be prepared to react in case of that situation," said Barnes' brother, David.

David hopes the study will lead law enforcement to review its training policies, and address the perception that tasers are somehow less than lethal.

He wants officer to "exhaust all other options before they resort to electrocuting someone".

"You know, they should try any other means before they potentially kill someone," David said.

In response to the article, Taser International, which manufactures the weapons, said it had not yet fully reviewed the findings but said the article's author, Dr. Zipes, is biased.

"Dr. Douglas Zipes, has earned more than $500,000 in fees at $1,200 per hour as a plaintiff's expert witness against Taser [International] and police," said company spokesman Steve Tuttle.

"The risks of cardiac arrhythmias or death remain low and make CEDs more favorable than other weapons," said Tuttle.

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