We’ve all seen them: movie or TV show scenes that depict taser guns. A police officer pulls out the taser and aims it at the criminal, shoots, and, within a split second, the person receiving the shock starts shaking uncontrollably, possibly even dropping to the ground. Tasers, in the scene, often save the day, allowing the police to catch the criminal. In real life, though, taser guns are a different story. Tasers are generally known to slow down or stop a person in a non-lethal way, however, there has been some controversy on lasting damage, and even death by taser.

Taser guns shoot an electrical pulse with two prongs that go through the outer layers of clothing and skin to give a strong shock to the person receiving it, says USA Today. Designed to meet its target from distances of 20 ft away, the taser gun blasts a high voltage, but has low amperage, which is supposed to prevent lasting damage. “…because the voltage is delivered as a quick blast at low current, and only on the skin and muscles, it drastically lowers the chance of death or serious injury,” says Cosmos. Death from tasing can result from a variety of factors stemming from the person’s bodily reaction to the pulses, such as cardiac arrest resulting in sudden death.

Although taser guns aren’t known to be lethal, use and misuse of them have led to death. In a report in 2017 over 1,000 deaths were documented from tasers. Half of the cases resulted in wrong death lawsuits, says USA Today.  In a Reuters report on wrongful deaths from tasers, there were 14 lawsuits a year from 2004 through 2009.

There is no standardized training for police officers in the use of tasers, says Today, because it is considered to be along the same degree of danger as mace or batons. The use of taser guns, as well as other non-lethal weapons, is up to the officer’s discretion.

police tasing

A taser

Law enforcement uses tasers to gain the upper hand in a dangerous situation. Among the factors an officer evaluates to use tasers is age, size, if the person has a weapon, or if the person is on drugs. However, over-use of tasers has been an issue, according to a report done in 2011. In the case of 18 year-old Everette Howard, tasers were lethal. While in a robbery dispute on his college campus, Howard stepped forward to let officers know he and his dorm advisor were not the people they were looking for, he was shot with a taser gun. Hit below his lower left chest and waist, Howard collapsed and was pronounced dead at the hospital where he was taken.

In another case, Darryl Williams, of North Carolina, was tased several times before being pronounced dead an hour after the incident, reports ABC News. Officers reported seeing Williams in a car with marijuana and alcohol, and asked him to step out. Williams began running, and officers threatened to tase him if he did not stop. Before being tased, Williams is heard from body cam footage that he has heart problems.

Taser guns may seem, or even be referred to as “non-lethal,” but misuse and human error are major factors in this weapon’s usage and without proper accountability, could cost lives.


Police Brutality Attorney in Southern California

If your loved one died by tasing, we want to hear your case. Your loved one’s death should be investigated immediately to find out whether the use of excessive force was warranted or simply was done out of negligence. It’s our job to help you get justice, so please contact our civil rights attorneys today.