LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA (September 20, 2018)
A 50-year-old man who may have been in the middle of a mental health crisis died in police custody after he was tasered.
The Long Beach County Coroner has been able to identify the man that died in the accident as Stephen Cherry.
Police reported that they were dispatched to the 100 block of Santa Ana Avenue and came across Stephen Cherry. Officers are saying that the victim was yelling and bleeding heavily from cuts on his arms.
As Stephen Cherry attempted to exit his house officers detained him. A struggle ensued in which he was tasered before being handcuffed and put into police custody.
The victim became unresponsive after being tasered and paramedics began life-saving measures.
He was taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Taser Safety Issues
Taser’s are often branded as “non-lethal” alternatives to traditional firearms. But nothing could be further from the truth. Tasers have been known to cause cardiac arrhythmia in patients that are healthy. Patients that have medical conditions or are under the influence of drugs will typically be at heightened risk for injury or death after being tasered. A report by Reuters revealed that tasers have been listed as the cause of death or a contributing factor in 153 separate autopsy reports. Victims of taser incidents (or their family) may have the ability to file numerous types of claims in order to recover damages.
Liability In Deaths Involving Police Tasers
1. Victims of police violence will usually have the ability to file an excessive force civil rights claim. Plaintiffs will need to argue that their rights to due process and equal protection under the fourth amendment were violated. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) set forth the “objective reasonableness” standard in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989) that lower courts use to review excessive force claims. Determining whether or not police force was reasonable requires courts to review several factors including:
The severity of the crime at issue
Whether the suspect is an immediate threat to officers or others
Whether the suspect is attempting to evade arrest or flee
Courts have occasionally been favorable in siding with plaintiffs when the police continue to taser a suspect that has already been restrained with handcuffs or body force.
2. Monell claims can be pursued directly against police officers and police departments. At a minimum plaintiffs will need to show that the government entity involved in the incident was “deliberately indifferent” towards the rights of the suspect. If, for example, a police department knowingly violated their own policies or tolerated such violations that may suffice in showing deliberate indifference.
3. Finally, companies that manufacturer tasers may face civil liability for accidents under product liability law. In short, companies can held responsible for an accident if it was caused by some type of defect with the product. If a suspect sustained a heart attack after being tasered that may be indicative of a design defect. Likewise, if a taser company fails to warn police officers about the dangers related to prolonged exposure to being tasered that may allow for a failure to warn claim.
Getting Help After A Taser Injury or Death
We at West Coast Trial Lawyers extend our condolences to the family of Stephen Cherry. There needs to be better police training for officers who must engage with suspects with a mental illness or who are under the influence. Far too often these encounters end in death. We also sincerely hope that officers are better trained to use tasers. A person under mental duress is far more likely to die from a taser than a healthy person. Anyone that may have seen what happened should reach out to investigators for the sake of all of those that have been affected.
Victims of police brutality (or their family) may have the ability to file a claim for damages. Our team of highly experienced personal injury attorneys can examine the facts of your case and let you know what your rights are. Whether you just have questions about your rights, need help getting a police report or are looking to hire an attorney we are here for you (888) 888-9285.
CITY NEWS SERVICE. Man dies after struggling with Long Beach police and getting tased. September 18, 2018
LBReport Staff. Coroner Identifies Man Who Died After LBPD Used Taser To Subdue Him In Belmont Shore; He Was 50 Yrs Old. September 19, 2019
Michael Tarleton. Suing the Police for Excessive Force. 2018
Peter Eisler, Grant Smith and Jason Szep. Taser Deaths Produce at Least 442 Lawsuits Against Police, Municipalities: Reuters. August 27, 2018
USA Amnesty International. Statement to the U.S. Justice Department inquiry into deaths in custody. December 2, 2007