Another Taser Death, Same Police Excuses
By Gerri Elder
Each time that a person dies from police use of a Taser gun, the argument of whether or not Tasers are a safer alternative to guns is brought up. Also with each Taser-related death, the conduct of the person who died is publicized so that the public might believe that they deserved their fate.
The case of Roberto Gonzales is no different. Gonzales was reportedly resisting arrest when Chicago police used chemical spray and a Taser gun to subdue him. He died 45 minutes later at Mt. Sinai Hospital from the injury.
An autopsy was performed on Gonzales' body, but the results were inconclusive. The Chicago Tribune reports that toxicology reports are pending but that the police are quick to say that Gonzales may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of his arrest and death.
A police source has told the Chicago Tribune that Gonzales was a known gang member and had a lengthy criminal history. Still, he had never been sentenced to death, but that's exactly the sentence he received because he was combative and resisted arrest.
The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) is reportedly investigating the police use of the Taser weapon. The IPRA will review the evidence and autopsy reports and interview witnesses to determine if there was any police misconduct in the case.
Amnesty International continues to voice concerns about police use of Taser guns. In a 2004 report, the organization outlined the circumstances of 70 documented cases of people who had died after being shot with police Taser weapons. There is concern that while some deaths are attributed to drug use, the use of the Taser weapon may increase the risk of heart failure or other adverse effects in cases that involve drug use.
Amnesty International has also expressed concerns over the absence of strict guidelines governing the use of Taser weapons in the USA, and the potential for abuse of their use. Since Taser guns are lightweight, portable and easy to use, there is risk of police officers using the weapons in cases where no weapon is necessary to bring a situation under control.
Amnesty International called for all police departments in the United States to suspend use of Taser weapons until a rigorous independent study of their use and effects could be completed. Of course, the recommendations of Amnesty International fell on deaf ears and with few exceptions; the use of Taser weapons by police officers in the United States has not been suspended.
According to Amnesty International, instead of restricting the use of Taser weapons, they are a growing trend in law enforcement with the argument being made that they are safer than other means of force. However, the families of Roberto Gonzales and the other people who have died after being shot with a police Taser gun probably disagree.