Man dies hours after shot by police Taser

By Ian Elliot

Local News - Monday, August 09, 2004 @ 07:00
Kingston Whig

One man is dead after being shocked by a police Taser stun gun and a woman is in custody after two separate drug-fuelled rampages in the city early yesterday morning.

Police say they had to subdue the two violent individuals within an hour of each other yesterday morning on opposite sides of the city.

The drug intoxication of the two was so complete that police fear a powerful batch of cocaine or another drug could be making its rounds in the city.

“We’re going to have to watch for that,” said Kingston Police Staff Sgt. Brian Begbie yesterday. “We’re very concerned about that possibility.”

Four years ago, a batch of powerful heroin killed three convicts in 17 days in Kingston.

In the first incident yesterday morning, emergency crews were called to Portsmouth Avenue where a 43-year-old man was reported to have overdosed.

When police and paramedics arrived, they found the man was conscious and had barricaded himself inside the house with a large knife and a baseball bat and was threatening to harm himself.

Police initially tried to calm the man, who admitted to police he had taken cocaine, but it quickly became apparent that would not work, so police hit him with a blast of pepper spray.

The man was so strung out that he did not even blink at the spray, police say, so officers on the scene used their newly issued Taser stun guns, and that quickly brought the man to the ground.

It was the first time city police had taken down a suspect using the new weapon – Begbie said that alone proved its worth.

“If they hadn’t had that weapon, there would only have been one alternative left,” he said, meaning the man probably would have been shot.

The effects of the shock appeared to wear off in a few seconds. The man was lucid and well enough to walk into the hospital and speak to doctors. However, 2½ hours after he arrived at the hospital, the man had a seizure and couldn’t be revived.

The man’s death comes in the middle of a high-profile debate about the safety of the Taser, which fires an electrical current through two barbs shot into a person’s skin for about five seconds. The shock immobilizes the victim but is supposed to wear off within seconds.

About 50 people have died after being shot with Tasers in North America, most in the United States. Five have died in Canada, most recently two men in British Columbia. Those deaths led Amnesty International to call for Tasers to be banned in Canada until it’s determined how safe it is.

The company that makes the Taser called Amnesty’s statements “misleading and defamatory” and countered that more than 115,000 people have been hit with Tasers and no deaths can be directly attributed to the device.

The company says independent coroners have attributed each death to underlying medical causes, drug toxicity or lethal overexertion while resisting arrest.

The company further argues that Tasers save the lives of people who would otherwise be the target of lethal force by police.

Because the man wasn’t in police custody at the time, his death didn’t involve the Special Investigations Unit and the case has been turned over to the coroner. The police are investigating.

Police weren’t releasing the man’s name last night.

Just an hour after that call, several 911 calls came in from Fraser Street, where a woman was reported to be “flipping out” and smashing car and vehicle windows.

Police say the 46-year-old woman was in a drug-induced rage and was completely irrational, half-dressed and bleeding. They didn’t know what drugs she had taken.

It took three police officers to wrestle the woman to the ground and when she was taken to hospital, a provision of the Mental Health Act was used to have her temporarily held for a psychiatric assessment.

Police say besides smashing windows, the woman had tried to break into several residences.

The incident is under investigation and police say the woman, who wasn’t identified, may face charges.