Sept. 1, 2010— -- A 911 call for help after a fall ended with a 64-year-old cancer survivor getting Tased three times by police in his California home, an action his attorney said could have killed him.
Marin County sheriff's deputies turned a Taser on Peter McFarland when he refused to go to the hospital and allegedly became belligerent.
"These are deadly weapons, and he had a heart condition," McFarland's attorney, John Scott, told "Good Morning America." " He could have easily been killed here."
McFarland can be seen screaming in agony on a police video, lying on the floor as the officers pumped high-powered volts of electricity into his back.
Scott said his client has recovered physically from the June 2009 incident, but that he's suing not only for compensation for his injuries but also to raise awareness about the "use of Tasers in situations where force is not warranted."
But police told a different story. McFarland, who had been drinking, said he wanted to kill himself and that he was depressed. Deputies can be heard on the weapon-mounted video, asking calmly for him to come with them.
"We want to take you to the hospital for an evaluation," the unnamed deputy said. "You said if you had a gun you would shoot yourself in the head."
"I'm depressed," McFarland replied.
Then, the deputy: "OK, well that's why we want to take you to talk to somebody."
A short time later, after police seemingly became increasingly worried about McFarland's growing agitation, McFarland attempted to get up from the couch and approach the deputies. The Taser was fired into his chest shortly afterward.
He was then Tased twice more.
In a statement issued by the Marin County Sheriff's Office, officials defended the deputies.
"We are confident the actions of our deputies will be found to have been both within the law and department policy," the statement read.
Former homicide detective Rod Wheeler, who was not involved in the case, told "Good Morning America" from that he thought police were well within their rights to use the Taser on McFarland after he became belligerent.
"You have to take into account the entire situation and all of the circumstances," Wheeler said. "We see in law enforcement, people who are intoxicated become very violent and hostile."
California Man Sues Over Repeated Taser Use in His Home
McFarland told ABC's San Francisco affiliate KGO that he called 911 after slipping and falling on the steps at his house. In the video, his pants are torn.
But after being treated by paramedics, he said, he was ready for it all to be over. That's when, he said, police stormed in.
"They came in here like there was a fire going on, like a gunfight was going on," he told KGO.
The threat to kill himself, he said, was simply a turn of phrase and that he was tired and in pain from his injuries.
Wheeler said that in a case like this one, the Taser is a better option than bringing out a nightclub and getting into a physical fight.
"In olden times a situation like this would have ended with a shooting or something like that," he said.
But noted criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos disagreed.
"I think McFarland has got a whale of a case of his claims against police," he told "Good Morning America." "This idea that they need to take him in because he was a threat to himself is almost laughable."