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Friday, April 24, 2009

The Gravest Injustice

On this Memorial Blogging For Justice Day

By Eddie Griffin (BASG)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Michael Jacobs was only 24 years old when he died. He was an African-American, trouble with mental illness, ascribed to medication for treatment. Nevertheless, he was a beloved son of the Jacobs family, a friendly outgoing neighbor, and an affectionate doting father.

There is an entire generation of Michael Jacobs in the world. Growing up in an at-risk environment, where children ate lead paint off window seals, where drugs finds its way into the brain pool, and kids grow up just short of a full deck. This generation, they call the crack baby generation. Not that Michael was the product of alcoholic or drug induced parents, it is the local mental health authorities that prescribe the same debilitating medication to similarly diagnosed patients.

I have seen firsthand the episodes of the mentally ill in the Fort Worth community, from the inside out. I have seen the mentally ill fight against their life sentences on medication. They hate it, and they try to quit. This can lead to withdrawal frustrations and erratic behavior.

I have seen family members, fighting with the mentally ill, to take their medication. This can lead to highly volatile situations, where 911 must be summoned.

Whomever the Jacobs family called first, the first response was the arrival of the ambulance with emergency medical personnel and officers of the Fort Worth Police Department.

Now how much the FWPD knew of Michael’s condition, they judged that they could best handle the situation and sent MedStar away.

They say that Michael became “non-cooperative”. Non-cooperative to what, I ask? Was he non-cooperative to being handcuffed?

You don’t have to tell me the dialogue. I know it by hard.

“Are you arresting me?”
“Just put your hands behind your back?”
“But what did I do?”
“Just put your hands behind your back?”
“But I didn’t do nothing?”
“If you don’t put your hands behind your back, we’ll tase you.”
“But I didn’t do nothing?”

That’s usually about as far as I get, before the confrontation turns into a wrestling match.

But this time, the officers skipped the wrestling match with the 5’5”, 150-lb, weakling and mentally ill patient. No, an officer went straight for her taser.

Taser International, Inc., creator and manufacturer of the Thomas A. Smith Electric Rifle, otherwise known as TASER, issued product warnings in 2005 after a number of taser related deaths. Among the risk factors is the “Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome”, a name dreamed up to immunized the company against any wrongful death suit arising from the deployment and use of the instrument.

Police departments, throughout the country, operate and deploy the weapon under a doctrine of “Continuum of Force”, which means starting with the least force to subdue a subject, all the way up to the use of deadly force. Tasers are categorized at Level 4 non-lethal force, though the company itself re-defined the weapon at “less than deadly”, which a Level 5 risk to killing the subject.

Michael Jacobs fit the profiles of a person at risk of “Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome”, because he was visibly agitated and psychotic. The Taser product warning advises not to taser these subjects, and if they do, they should subdue the subject immediately and shorten the duration of the taser shocks.

Under the “Continuum of Force” doctrine, the FWPD officers were supposed to physically subdue the subject. And, if the subject resist, then they should deploy their taser weapons only for a short duration.

Poor judgment in sending MedStar away was the first mistake. Now there is an investigation as to whether the FWPD officer followed the policy of “Continuum of Force”.

In any deployment, especially when used against an at-risk subject, the product warning advises immediate medical attention. Tasers can kill, as demonstrated in many video documented cases. Taser International advises calling in medical personnel to check the tased subject, because initial bodily reaction may not reveal the full damage.

Therefore, having medical personnel on the scene, before the situation escalated, the FWPD showed poor judgment in sending the ambulance away, and thereby hindered a life-saving potential. The potential risk of a Level 4 non-lethal use of force, such as the use of pepper spray or a baton, there would still be a need for medical personnel.

The mere threat of an injury, whether subject or officer, medical personnel were ideally situated at the scene to render aid.

Now we read where the insurance company pulled out a secret clause to keep from paying the Jacobs family’s death benefits.

Killed for no reason and his body left to rot outside the grave is the gravest of injustices.

Please sign this Petition to Congress


  1. I appreciate what you are doing there in Ft. Worth TX with the Michael Jacobs case. Keep us informed!

    I invite your blog readers to see what I had to say about taser torture in America and sign online petition seeking congressional hearings.

    peace, Villager

  2. Ditto... this is such a sad case. But all of the cases are sad and even more - unjustified and uncalled for.

    I invite you and your readers to learn more about the origin of the TASER.

  3. Gordon Brown imposed the prohibition on Michael Jacobs, his senior adviser on climate change, despite the official’s insistence that he was no longer contagious and his plea that he should be at the gathering.