A Fort Worth man
who died in May after police shocked him with a Taser during a drug raid died
of natural causes, the Tarrant County medical examiner has ruled. The shock from
the Taser did not contribute to the death of 34-year-old Jermaine Darden, said
Linda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office…
examiner’s office ruled Darden’s cause of death as “sudden cardiac death” due
to heart disease and “application of restraint”…
“application of restraint” refers to Darden’s hands being handcuffed behind
him. She said, however, that forensic pathologists believe that being
handcuffed had no impact on Darden’s death and that he could have died of heart disease even if he’d not been
According to the
autopsy report, officers used the Taser on Darden twice — for five seconds each
time — after he failed to comply with instructions during the execution of the
A team of forensic
pathologists reviewed the case, including video
that showed Darden being stunned with the Taser and continuing to struggle.
COMMENTARY by Eddie Griffin
So they say: It was not the
taser that killed Jermaine Darden, and neither did the handcuff restraints
contribute to his death. He could have died of a heart attack on his own.
Therefore, the Fort Worth police officers were only incidental in his death. After a four months investigation, this is what they come up with.
If anyone believes this, they
are “hoodwinked”, as Malcolm X would say.
NO! We will not believe it. We need to see the
video tape, because there are discrepancies between the official reports and
the eyewitnesses accounts. Isn’t this the reason why Police Chief Jeff Halstead
purchased the taser video cameras, so there would be more transparency? Pictures don't lie. But
medical examiners have been known to concoct a fabricated cause of death. How
can the ME conclude that “maybe” Darden would have died on his own? "Maybe" is not a
medical conclusion for cause of death.
Maybe and maybe not, there is plenty of room between "maybes" for skepticism and cynicism. Another scenario could be this: Maybe Mr. Darden started
dying the minute he was tased. How long does it take for a person's heart to stop beating after
being electrocuted with 50,000 volts of electricity? Simply because it did not occur instantly like zip, even being struck by lightning, it takes time to expire. Sure, while he was complaining about not being
able to breathe, he was in fact in the process of dying. So goes maybes and their
They can say what they will,
however. But this we know from past experience. TASER International, the maker of the stun gun, has a history of suing
every medical examiner who attributes cause of death to their taser. And what is more intimidating is that they have
never lost a suit. Therefore, ME's are terrified to rule against the company,
and the company, in turn, rewards them with perks like lavish vacations disguised as medical conferences,
all expenses paid for by the TASER International.
To obscure the true cause of
death, ME’s created a lexicon of psychobabble, with terms like "death by excited delirium" and "in
custody death syndrome", and now "cardiac arrest by natural causes". We note that this ruling
comes only after learning that Darden was asthmatic with a heart
problem. Thus, they claim, in so many words, he would have died anyway. For all intent and purpose, they could have very well said it was Mr. Darden's time to die, and God simply called him on home.
Psychobabble may sound
medical to the ignorant. But it is an insult to our intelligence. We have been through this before. We discovered many years ago
medical examiners covering up the cause of death of inmates
in the state penitentiary, after prisoners who had been beaten to death by prison
guards. They used to rule death by natural causes after the victim's body was laid to rest. (Credit some local funeral directors for exposing these facts).
CORRESPONDENCE to the Chief of Police Jeff Halstead
from Eddie Griffin
April 22, 2009
Dear Chief Jeffrey
Thank you for coming out to the Minority
Leaders and Citizens Council Meeting. The pleasure of meeting you was mine. I
have attached the statement that I delivered to you, with regards to the tragic
tasering death of Michael Jacobs.
When all is said and done, the question
is: Did the officer do her job, according to law and according to policy?
Secondly, we must
not try to ascribe the cause of death to the victim. Michael Jacobs did not
cause his own death. Even if he were on his death bed, he still had a right to
life, and no one should take it away from him, without due process of law. To
say he died because of "excited delirium" would add insult to injury.
Thirdly, we must recognize that he died as
an innocent man, guilty of no crime, and that he died at the hands of the Fort
Worth Police Department. We cannot leave a vacuum in the assumption of responsibility.
To say that no one is responsible would be playing the
Fourthly, Taser International,
Inc., the maker of the device, issued specific product warnings
against Taser usage in cases where there might be a "Sudden
In-Custody Death Syndrome". These cases call for heightened
discretionary judgment in deployment, because the risk of death to the subject
is much higher.
Therefore, the death of Michael Jacobs
calls into focus the FWPD policy's alignment with the manufacturer's product
Are officers trained to recognize a "Sudden
In-Custody Death Syndrome" and how to avoid it?
As one of your officers admits, it's not
the use of tasers, but the abuse of tasers that kill people.
But who is accountable? Civil
damages, in whatever amount, can never compensate for the loss of life.
Let me point out again:
Tasers are deadly. If officers are trained to think that these devices are
non-lethal, this may be why so many officers deploy the instrument, without
fully weighing the consequences.
A Day of Blogging for Justice
has already been called by the AfroSpear
against the use and abuse of taser. Bloggers from around the world will be protesting
taser deaths of people like Michael Jacobs. Amnesty International will add
another number to the total death count, and we continue
to call for a moratorium. This movement is beyond anyone's control and
has a life of its own. Nevertheless, I am a co-signer and supporter.
At the very least, we should recognize
that tasers have caused too many deaths (351), that the Taser is a deadly weapon,
and should be reclassified as lethal force, and
used with the same appropriate caution and discretion, if used at all.
Justice Day, April 19, 2009,
The Taser, produced by Taser
International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), is the latest toy put into the hands of law
enforcement to subdue resistive subjects during apprehension and arrest. But
the product manual for the device warns of its misusage.
for Law Enforcement from the Manufacturer
Applicable Laws. Carry
and use the TASER device in accordance with applicable federal, state, and
local laws as well as your law enforcement agency’s guidance—policies,
procedures, training, etc. Each TASER device discharge must be legally
Confusion. Handguns have been
confused with TASER devices. Learn about the differences in physical feel and
holstering characteristics between the TASER device and your handgun. This will
allow you to confirm device identity under stressful situations.
Target Areas. The preferred
target areas are the subject’s torso (center mass) or legs. Avoid intentionally
aiming a TASER device at the head or face without justification.
Areas. Significant injury can
occur from TASER device deployment into sensitive areas of the body such as the
eyes, throat, or genitals—avoid intentionally targeting these areas without
Pre-Existing Injury Areas. When
practical, avoid deploying a TASER device at a known location of pre-existing
injury (e.g., avoid targeting the back for persons with known pre-existing back
injuries, avoid targeting the chest area on persons
with a known history of previous heart attacks, etc.). These injuries
may be provoked by such deployment.
Can Ignite Explosive Materials, Liquids, or Vapors. These include gasoline, other flammables, explosive
materials, liquids, or vapors (e.g., gases found in sewer lines,
methamphetamine labs, and butane-type lighters). Some self-defense sprays use
flammable carriers such as alcohol and could be dangerous to use in immediate
conjunction with TASER devices.
Restrain Immediately. Begin
control and restraint procedures as soon as it is reasonably safe to do so in
order to minimize the total duration of exertion and stress experienced by the
In-Custody Death Syndrome Awareness. If a subject is exhibiting signs or behaviors that are
associated with Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome, consider combining use of a
TASER device with immediate physical restraint techniques and medical
assistance. Signs of Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome include: extreme
agitation, bizarre behavior, inappropriate nudity, imperviousness to pain,
paranoia, exhaustive exertion, “superhuman” strength, hallucinations, sweating
Exposure Risks. When
practical, avoid prolonged or continuous exposure(s) to the TASER device's
electrical discharge. In some
circumstances, in susceptible people, it is conceivable that the stress and
exertion of extensive repeated, prolonged, or continuous application(s) of the
TASER device may contribute to cumulative exhaustion, stress, and associated
to TASER exposure, conditions such as excited delirium, severe exhaustion, drug
intoxication or chronic drug abuse, and/or over-exertion from physical struggle
may result in serious injury or death.
or repeated TASER device exposures should be avoided where practical. Although
existing studies on conscious human volunteers indicate subjects continue to
breathe during extended TASER device applications, it is conceivable that the
muscle contractions may impair a subject's ability to breathe. Accordingly, it
is advisable to use expedient physical restraint in conjunction with the TASER
device to minimize the overall duration of stress, exertion, and potential
breathing impairment particularly on individuals exhibiting symptoms of excited
delirium and/or exhaustion. However, it
should be noted that certain subjects in a state of excited delirium may
exhibit superhuman strength and despite efforts for expedient restraint, these
subjects sometimes cannot be restrained without a significant and profound
Loss. If a TASER probe becomes
embedded in an eye, it could result in permanent loss of vision.
Seizure Risks. Repetitive stimuli such as flashing lights or
electrical stimuli can induce seizures in some individuals. This risk is
heightened if electrical stimuli or current passes through the head region.
Contraction-Related Risks. The TASER device can cause strong muscle contractions that may
result in physical exertion or athletic-type injuries. In certain instances
this may be serious for some people, such as those with pre-existing conditions
and/or special susceptibilities. This may
also occur in instances Sudden in-custody death results from a complex set of
physiological and psychological conditions characterized by irrational
behavior, extreme exertion, and potentially fatal
changes in blood chemistry.
TASER-induced strong muscle contractions usually render a subject temporarily
unable to control his or her psychomotor movements. This may result in
secondary injuries such as those due to falls. This loss of control, or
inability to catch oneself, can in special circumstances increase the risk(s)
of serious injury or death. Persons who
are physically infirm or pregnant are among those who may be at higher risk.
Strain Injury Risks. It is possible that the injury types may include, but
are not limited to, strain-type injuries such as hernias, ruptures,
dislocations, tears, or other injuries to soft tissue, organs, muscles,
tendons, ligaments, nerves, and joints. Fractures to bones, including
vertebrae, may occur. These injuries may be more likely
to occur in people with pre-existing injuries or conditions such as
pregnancy, osteoporosis, osteopenia, spinal injuries, diverticulitis, or in
persons having previous muscle, disc, ligament, joint, or tendon damage.
Laser Beam Eye
Damage. The TASER device
incorporates a laser aiming aid. Laser beams can cause eye damage. Avoid
intentionally aiming at the eye(s) of a person or animal.
A disabled African-American
man was tasered to death by the Fort Worth Police Department. Jermaine Darden, age
34, a 300-pound asthmatic on a breathing machine, was wrestled to the floor and
tased, after police kicked in his unlocked front door on a “no-knock” warrant. Officers
claimed he was resisting arrest when he would not comply with their order to roll
over on his stomach. But family members claimed the man was having breathing problems,
which were especially aggravated when he tries to lie on his stomach.
Darden’s mother, Donna Randle
describes what happen: “When they came in, they had
their weapons drawn like we were members of a drug cartel. There were six
people who told the police the man had health problems, yet they continued to
do what they did.”
She is now
asking why the police had to “use such excessive force.”
took place in the same neighborhood where Michael Jacobs, Jr., a 24-year old mentally
challenged African-American, was tasered to death by police in April, 2009. The
City of Fort Worth eventually had to pay a $2 million settlement to the family.
Darden would be
the seventh taser related death in the city’s history.
There have been
several attempts by the community to reconcile with the FWPD over racially
charged excessive force issues. The problem with taser related deaths should
have been settled when Chief of Police Jeff Halstead negotiated with TASER
International, the maker of the stun guns, to modify the design of their taser
product, which would allow an automatic shut off after a 5-second burst. But
change the weapon’s shut-off system does not change police abusive practices in
its deployment. Tasers still kill, with or without a 5-second shutoff. And Darden
is the second taser related death since Michael Jacobs, Jr.
It should be
evident here of a violation of police policy. According the WFAA 8 Jim Douglas
report, the weapon was deployed multiple times. What is not clear is whether one
officer used the override on the 5-second cutoff or whether several tasers were
deployed at once. The incident is still under investigation.
policy, whether officers complied with it or not, there are serious human
rights and constitutional questions about the right of the accused, and the
nature of the heavy-handed gang buster tactics.
advocates have always contended tasers to be torture in violation of the Eight
Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. A victim being stunned
by 50,000 volts of electricity is equivalent to being electrocuted by high
voltage utility wires, or comparable to the electric chair.
importantly, however, is that a person has the right to life. No one should be
summarily executed by electrocution at the whims of a law enforcement officer.
This violates the First Amendment Right to life, and the Sixth Amendment Right to
It would be fruitless, however,
to argue constitutional rights issues with the same agency guilty of the violations. If
the agency cannot enforce its own policy and the City unable to protect the
public, then monetary retribution should be exacted as heavily as possible. Corrections
can and will be made, if liabilities for abuses of authority began to cost more
than the City can willingly afford.
Of course, little
defense can be offer for Derrick Anthony Birdow who was tasered to death while in the
act of killing a preacher. Some might rationalize his death as justifiable
in the heat of the moment. But the point still stands: Tasers kill. And
multiple jolts of 50,000 volts of electricity will kill with surety, something every
FWPD officer should know. Thus, the killing of Darden should not have come as a complete
surprise to the deploying officer or officers.
Someone needs to be held
accountable. First, there is the officer or officers who deployed the weapon or
weapons. Was he or she or they criminally negligent? If they had full knowledge
of the Michael Jacobs tragedy, then they cannot claim ignorance.
Then there is the FWPD itself. Do loopholes
in its policy allow for and exonerate such on-the-spot street summary execution of
suspects, contrary to the constitutional rights of the suspect? The officer who
tased Michael Jacobs to death claimed she did not know that holding the taser
trigger down continued to shoot electricity into his body. Nobody ever told her,
and TASER International never educated officers about the risks. What excuse can
they offer now to exonerate them of their legal and criminal culpability?
The third party is the City of
Fort Worth, who are obligated to back the police action and cover their liabilities in
cases where excessive force is employed. Shouldn’t they have learned something
from the Jacobs’s case? Didn’t they assure the community that this would never
happen again where an innocent person would be tasered to death?
Fourth, there is TASER
International who falsely advertises tasers are non-lethal weapons. They are
the guiltiest insofar as they leave cities, like Fort Worth, to pick up the
pieces, pay off the wrongful death suits, while they continue marketing their product
as if it does no harm.
There is a memorial south of Fort Worth filled with
crosses for those killed by tasers, named the Michael C. Jacobs, Jr. Memorial.
The official death count now
stands at 779, with a cross for Jermaine Darden
to be added. Here is a list of those who died by tasers in Fort Worth:
·November 2, 2004: Robert Guerrero,
21, Fort Worth, Texas
·April 3, 2005: Eric Hammock, 43, Fort
·June 24, 2005: Carolyn Daniels, 25,
Fort Worth, Texas
·August 23, 2006: Noah Lopez, 25, Fort
·April 18, 2009: Michael Jacobs Jr.,
24, Fort Worth, Texas
29, 2012: Derrick Birdow, 33, Fort Worth, Texas
·May 17, 2013:Jermaine
Darden, 34, Fort Worth, Texas
As for the investigation by the
FWPD’s major-case unit and the Department’s heavy-handed “no knock” tactic that
allowed the police to kick open a family’s “unlocked door”, under the pretext
of a big drug raid that eventually cost this disabled man his life, let’s see what
they were after and what they netted for their effort:
Five people who were
•[Suspect No. 1], age 25, suspected of
possessing 1 to 4 grams of a controlled substance and 2 to 4 ounces of
•[Suspect No. 2], age 22, suspected of
possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana. Police also found that [Suspect No. 2] was wanted on two
warrants from other jurisdictions.
•[Suspect No. 4], age 27, accused of
evading arrest and detention. [Suspect
No. 4] also had a warrant.
•[Suspect No. 5], age 29, and [Suspect No. 6], age 29, both with class
C warrants from Fort Worth. [Suspect No.
6], who identified herself as Darden’s cousin, said she has an unpaid
ticket for talking on a cellphone while driving in a school zone.
In a police report, Officer
N.B. Danford was the one who drafted the probable-cause warrant to search for
cocaine at the house. The “no-knock” warrant was signed by Tarrant County
Magistrate Cheyenne Minick at 3:35 p.m. Thursday, according to the report.
The investigation should not
begin with the suspects, because there was never any really “big fish” in this
expedition, only a few misdemeanor guppies at worst. So they kick down an
unlocked door and kill a man for the above probable-causes. No, the
investigation should begin at the determination level of probable cause and a
criminal justice system that allows a magistrate who signed off on a “no-knock”
(kick-the-door-down) raid to bag a few petty misdemeanor offenders.