Man Tasered by Police at Salad Bar

March 3, 2005 -- -- Aurora, Colo., police have reviewed a weekend incident in which a man accused of taking salad he hadn't paid for from a Chuck E. Cheese salad bar was hit with a stun gun and said that proper procedures were followed.

The case is one of many recent incidents across the country in which the use of stun guns has been questioned.

In Florida, State Attorney Harry Shorstein said Wednesday that Jacksonville police may have used excessive force when they twice shocked a 65-pound, 13-year-old girl with a 50,000-volt Taser on Feb. 7.

According to the sheriff's department report on the incident, the girl, who was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, had been taken into custody for fighting with her mother and was being uncooperative.

Two weeks later, the Jacksonville sheriff's office suspended its use of the stun guns, after having paid $1.8 million to equip the force.

In Nevada, lawmakers are debating whether to limit the right of the public to have stun guns as makers of the weapons step up their efforts to market them outside law enforcement.

The bill would make it illegal to use a stun gun except in self-defense and would bar felons, fugitives and people suffering certain types of mental illness from owning or using them. Children would be allowed to have stun guns only with parental consent and would be allowed to use them only in their own home.

Critics of the bill said its controls are not tight enough, and suggested that parents should be held accountable if a child misuses one.

The devices fire two hooks that attach to a person's skin or clothes and administer a 50,000-volt charge, generally for five seconds, though in some incidents police have acknowledged shocking a suspect for up to three times that long.

Though the weapons have been touted as non-lethal and are used by about 6,000 police, military and corrections departments across the country, stun guns have been responsible for more than 70 deaths since 2001, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.

Taser International, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that makes most of the stun guns used by law enforcement across the country, said the devices do not generate enough electrical current to stop a healthy person's heart. If people die from being shocked by the weapons, it must be because they are intoxicated or are suffering from health problems that were exacerbated by their confrontation with police.

Many law enforcement agencies have imposed restrictions on their use or, like the Jacksonville sheriff's office and the Chicago Police Department, have banned them altogether until they can be studied further.

In Georgia, the state legislature is also considering prohibiting stun guns, not only for the general public but for police as well.

The incident at the Colorado Chuck E. Cheese restaurant began at 4:05 p.m. Sunday when officers were called to the restaurant on a report of a larceny in progress.

Police talked to the restaurant manager who told them that a customer had refused to show proof that he had paid for food. The manager said the man was seen "loading" his plate at the salad bar.

The officers confronted Danon Gale, 29, who was at the restaurant with his children, aged 3 and 7. Patrons said the popular kids pizza parlor was packed at the time.

According to police, Gale was asked to step outside to discuss the incident.

"According to witnesses [Gale] refused to cooperate with police and a struggle ensued," said Larry Martinez, a police spokesman. He said that Gale became argumentative and shoved one of the officers, a fact disputed by another patron.

"One of the officers kept poking the gentleman in the chest," Felicia Mayo told the Rocky Mountain News.

Mayo was there with her 7-year-old son. She told the newspaper that Gale told the officer, "You don't have to do that." She said Gale never put his hands on the officer who was confronting him.

The argument escalated until Gale was shoved into the lap of Mayo's sister, who was sitting two booths away, holding a 10-month-old baby. That's when police pulled out a Taser stun gun to subdue him.

"They beat this man in front of all these kids then Tased him in my sister's lap," Mayo told the newspaper. "They had no regard for the effect this would have on the kids. This is Chuck E. Cheese, you know."

Gale's two children were "screaming and hollering and crying" as Gale was Tasered two times with the stun gun.

Police arrested Gale as his children and other customers and their children watched. They took him outside, leaving his children inside the restaurant.

Gale was arrested for investigation of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing.

His two children were picked up by a relative.

The manager of the restaurant declined comment and Gale said he couldn't talk about it, after hiring an attorney.

An Aurora police spokesman said that the sergeant on the scene wrote a report on the incident and forwarded it to his commander who determined that proper police procedures were followed relating to the use of the Taser.

ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver contributed to this report.