The parents of a 39-year-old who died in a Christmas Eve confrontation with the Los Angeles Police Department in 2014 was awarded $5.5 million by a federal jury on Monday, KPCC radio reports.
KPCC reports that LAPD officers “hit the man with their batons and fists, pepper sprayed and restrained him.” An officer also stunned the man with a Taser six times in a row. He suffered a heart attack an hour later and died after two days.
The coroner’s report blamed an enlarged heart, cocaine use, and “police restraint with use of Taser.”
The man, Michael F. Mears, had a confrontation with the police outside of his apartment after his roommate reported that Mears told him “someone was coming after him.” When he didn’t cooperate with paramedics, police officers were called in. One officer used his Taser six times in three minutes, including one burst that lasted 32 seconds.
KPCC reports that the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent research group, recommends that a suspect not be exposed to a Taser for more than 15 seconds total. Tasing someone for longer than that “may increase the risk of death or serious injury,” the group says.
The jury concluded that the police used “excessive and unreasonable force in violation of the 4th Amendment” and faulted the LAPD for offering inadequate training to the officers.
The city’s lawyers had argued that Mears’ cocaine use had been responsible for his death and described Mears as “out of control.”
This is far from the first time Tasers have been blamed for people’s deaths. A recent Reuters investigation looked at more than 1,000 incidents in which someone died after an encounter with the police when Tasers were used. Reuters found that “In at least 153 of those cases, coroners or medical examiners cited the Taser as a cause or contributing factor in the death.”
Reuters says that the Taser company, which recently changed its name to Axon, disputed the Reuters analysis: “Taser said the only deaths that can be attributed to its stun guns involve 24 cases in which the person died from secondary injuries, such as falls or fires caused by the Taser.”