Three Weekend Deaths Tied to Tasers

Fla. cops found a gun on Christian Allen, who died Sunday after being Tasered.

January 8, 2009, 1:42 AM

Nov. 19, 2007 — -- Three men died this weekend after being zapped by Tasers during confrontations with police.

The three deaths came one week after a video surfaced of a Polish immigrant writhing in pain at Vancouver International Airport moments after being Tasered by Canadian police. The 40-year-old man died a short time later.

Sheriff's officers in Jacksonville, Fla., discharged a Taser on Christian Allen, 21, after he and a passenger in his sport utility vehicle tried to flee on foot after a traffic stop, Melissa Bujeda, spokeswoman for the Jacksonville, Fla., sheriff's office, told ABC News.

An officer pursued Allen in his car and then caught up to him on foot before discharging his Taser multiple times on the suspect. "They were in a struggle at the time," Bujeda said.

Allen, who had a previous arrest record, was carrying bags containing what police believe is crack cocaine and had a loaded handgun in his jacket pocket when an officer finally subdued him. Allen did not raise the gun at the officer, Bujeda said.

After he was Tasered, Allen was checked by EMT at the scene. EMT then cleared police to put him into the back of a cruiser. At that point, according to the sheriff's office, he became unconscious. He was driven to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Maryland police said today they will investigate the death of 20-year-old Jarrell Gray, who was involved in a fight in Frederick County, Md., early Sunday when police used the Taser to subdue him.

An autopsy will be conducted, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said. Jenkins said that so far this year his officers have used Tasers to safely detain suspects 27 times.

In New Mexico, 20-year-old Jesse Saenz was Tasered after struggling with police as they tried to take him into custody Sunday. Saenz died after being rushed to a hospital.

Canadian officials said Saturday that four police officers involved in the death of a Polish immigrant have been reassigned to different posts.

The decision followed the release of video showing Robert Dziekanski writhing in pain at the Vancouver International Airport after being struck by the Taser and before he died.

Canadian federal police Commissioner William Elliott defended the use of Tasers, saying that they are safe and effective in most cases. Eighteen people have died in Canada after being hit with a Taser in the last four years.

Police say that Tasers are valuable tools for avoiding dangerous struggles with suspects. The small, portable devices fire tiny, tethered cartridges that transmit electrical currents that shock the intended target. More than 11,000 law enforcement agencies use Tasers, The Associated Press reported in August.

A spokesman for Amnesty International said police should exercise more restraint when choosing to discharge the device.

The human rights organization cited 250 cases in the United States in the last six years where a suspect died after being hit with a Taser. Those statistics, however, do not track whether shock actually caused the deaths.

Taser International Inc., the company that manufactures Tasers, claims that the device can only be tied to 12 deaths.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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