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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Taser Death ruled Natural Causes

by Eddie Griffin


-Excerpts from Star-Telegram “Heart disease, not Taser, killed Fort Worth man, autopsy finds”, September 4, 2013


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…


The medical examiner’s office ruled Darden’s cause of death as “sudden cardiac death” due to heart disease and “application of restraint”…


Anderson said “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 restrained.


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 search warrant.


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 theories.


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 Halstead:


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 ignorance card.


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 safety warning.


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.



Eddie Griffin


Postscript: Taser death toll now 806. #529 is Michael Jacobs, Jr. and #782 is Jermaine Darden.



Excerpt from Eddie Griffin (BASG)

Blogging For Justice Day, April 19, 2009, AfroSpear



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.


Product Warnings for Law Enforcement from the Manufacturer


Obey 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 justified.


Avoid Weapons 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.


Select Preferred 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.


Avoid Sensitive 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 justification.


Avoid Known 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.


Beware—TASER Device 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.


Control and 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 subject.


Sudden 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 profusely, etc.


Continuous 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 medical risk(s).


Other Conditions. Unrelated 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.


Breathing Impairment. Extended 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 struggle.


Permanent Vision 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.


Muscle 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.


Secondary Injury Risks. 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.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Disabled African-American man was tasered to death by the Fort Worth Police Department

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Commentary by Eddie G. Griffin


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.”


The incident 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.


Besides FWPD 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.


Human Rights 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.


More 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 Due Process.


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 Worth, Texas

·       June 24, 2005: Carolyn Daniels, 25, Fort Worth, Texas

·       August 23, 2006: Noah Lopez, 25, Fort Worth, Texas

·       April 18, 2009: Michael Jacobs Jr., 24, Fort Worth, Texas

·       October 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 arrested:

         [Suspect No. 1], age 25, suspected of possessing 1 to 4 grams of a controlled substance and 2 to 4 ounces of marijuana.

         [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.