Sunday, August 21, 2005

N.M. Officers Suing Taser Firm

The Associated Press

PHOENIX— Police officers in New Mexico and four other states have filed lawsuits against Arizona-based Taser International Inc., claiming they were seriously injured after being shocked with the electronic stun gun during training classes.
All of the lawsuits have been filed in the past two weeks, including four in Maricopa County Superior Court here on behalf of officers in Florida, Kansas, New Mexico and Ohio.
The officers allege they suffered "severe and permanent" injuries, including multiple spinal fractures, burns, a shoulder dislocation and soft-tissue injuries.
The lawsuits challenge Taser's principal safety claim and accuse the company of misleading law enforcement about the extent of potential injuries. They also accuse company officials of concealing reports of injuries to at least a dozen other law enforcement officers.
Taser, based in Scottsdale, has marketed the weapons to 7,000 law enforcement agencies and promoted the gun's safety.
The devices temporarily paralyze people with a 50,000-volt jolt delivered by two barbed darts that can penetrate clothing.
The American Civil Liberties Union reports more than 130 deaths in the United States related to Tasers, while Amnesty International reports more than 120 deaths in the U.S. and Canada— both figures since June 2001.
Taser International has consistently denied that its products are to blame in the deaths, arguing that none have been directly linked to Tasers.
The company also contends Tasers have saved thousands of lives— suspects who might otherwise have been fatally shot by police.
In a statement Friday, Taser vice president Steve Tuttle said the company planned to "aggressively fight" all of the lawsuits.
In their lawsuits, the officers allege they were injured in training classes between August 2003 and October 2004.
They say that Taser instructors did not reveal any medical information suggesting that the guns could cause injuries and they claim the company has ignored important research suggesting the guns could be extremely dangerous, if not fatal.

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