A 56 year old Fayetteville man was killed when police used a Taser to subdue him prior to arrest. As a result, Police Chief Tom Bergamine announced this week that all police officers were to turn in their Tasers. All of the weapons will be examined to ensure they are working properly.
Fayetteville isn’t the first department in the state to take their Tasers off the streets. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Department did the same in July after a similar death, this one involving a 21 year old man. In another Charlotte case a 17 year old was killed in 2008 after police fired a Taser at him. The city later settled a claim with the teen’s family for $625,000.
Taser International is the maker of these weapons, most often used by police when deadly force is not warranted by physical force is. Across the country in recent years we’ve seen many people die soon after a Taser incident, though Taser International says the devices are safe.
A spokesperson for the company says “The vast numbers of these cases (deaths) tend to be caused by a drug overdose or delirium or some are simply unexplained.”
In Fayetteville, Michael Wade Evans was reportedly acting erratically in a public parking lot last week. He was said to have been trying to jump on vehicles as they passed. When the police couldn’t get control of him to make an arrest, they fired the Taser at him. He stopped breathing and was pronounced dead at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
“I feel it was the responsible and prudent response to issues with the use of Tasers in the law enforcement profession in general,” said Police Chief Tom Bergamine. He went on to say that he has no reason to believe an equipment malfunction was the cause of Evans’ death.
Cumberland County Commissioner Charles Evans is one of few officials that believe the Tasers should have been pulled long ago. “Actually, I don’t think Tasers should be used at all,” he told the Fayetteville Observer.
Tasers are controversial weapons, to say the least. Critics say they are far too dangerous to be considered “non-lethal” and question if the devices make it more convenient for police to use force, potentially increasing use-of-force incidents when they are unnecessary.
Taser International maintains that there products are not lethal and completely safe, though potentially painful, when used correctly.
Though used more often than firearms, Tasers are still infrequently used by North Carolina law enforcement. Instead, most arrests occur without incident and without a use of force.