Taser International has been hiding behind its ‘non-lethal’ hype, and the result is that people have died. Just like the tobacco companies once did, they refuse to tell the truth for fear of killing the business.
Though it discharges 50,000 volts, a Taser is easy to use and police departments require little training before deploying it. And though Taser deaths are notorious, I have yet to see or hear of a single case where the police said they knew that a victim’s heart could stop beating after being shocked.
Taser International seems to avoid even discussing the possibility of adverse affects, and the results are tragic. The first successful suit against them was decided last year after the death of Robert Heston jr. in Salinas. Though perhaps lacking common sense, the police were actually cleared of liability because they weren’t aware that tasing a man 30 times was dangerous.
Robert Heston senior won his lawsuit against Taser International, but at a terrible cost. “I have a picture of my son under the Christmas tree and I miss him,” says Mr. Heston, whose son was Tasered to death in 2005. “It is hard on all of us this time of year—we are a close family. You always think you are going first but when the kids go it takes a toll on you.” And Mr. Heston has been in the hospital with heart problems on several occasions–he thinks it stems from anxiety over his son’s death.
Taser victim Mr. Heston remembers vividly that horrific day when his son—also named Robert—was tasered repeatedly; Mr. Heston says his son was tasered about 30 times. “I guess the police kept doing it because they thought they didn’t have full control over Robert—they couldn’t handcuff him. But Robert couldn’t put his hands up because he couldn’t move.” Mr. Heston explains that the police officers tried to pry Robert’s hands from under his torso to handcuff him but he was paralyzed—so they Tasered him some more!
“The cops got off scott free,” says Mr. Heston. “We lost the case against the cops but won against Taser. Policies need to be changed about Tasers; when they first came out the police had no idea what they could do to people because it was put on the market by Taser International as non-lethal, but we all know that isn’t true now, after the fact.”
“Losing Robert was devastating,” says Mr. Heston’s son-in-law, Kirk Kasner. “Since Robert’s death I have done a fair amount of research and in my opinion, most law enforcement is not trained sufficiently—police officers get far more firearms training than they do Taser training. They have a preconceived notion the Taser is safe; they think tasering someone repeatedly is harmless.”