Saturday, October 17, 2009

19-year-old Dies After Being Tasered

A 19-year-old man died late Friday after San Bernardino city police used a Taser on him at a residential mental health facility, authorities said.

Police were called to Orchid Court, 307 S. Arrowhead Ave., around 11:30 p.m. regarding a fight involving three people, according to a news release.

Officers separated the three, but one of them became combative and was "tased," police said.

Following standard procedure, officers called paramedics to treat the unidentified man. Paramedics started to examine the man, who stopped breathing, police said.

The man was taken to a St. Bernardine Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, according to the San Bernardino County coroner's office. An autopsy is pending to determine the cause of death.

Friday's fatality occurred at a residential mental health center listed as one of the partners of the county's Office of Behavioral Health. Orchid Court is a state-licensed assisted living facility.

The incident marks the third time in less than three months that a suspect has died shortly after being stunned with a Taser by police in the Inland area. Jonathan Nelson, 27, of Rancho Cucamonga was stunned twice on July 30, once by deputies in Hemet and again in a Riverside County jail cell.

Terrace Clifton Smith, 52, of Moreno Valley was Tasered by police and suffered a fatal seizure on Aug. 9.

Critics of law enforcement use of Tasers have said the mentally ill and those under the influence of narcotics can have serious reactions to the electrical charge delivered by stun guns.

San Bernardino officers are not instructed to use Tasers any differently on people suspected of mental illness or drug use, Lt. Gwendolyn Waters said.

Sgt. Dario Robinson, who trains fellow officers on Taser use for the San Bernardino Police Department, said what some of the criticism fails to address is what happened before police used a stun gun.

"There is really no evidence to pinpoint that the Taser is the cause," Robinson said. "... There are so many other factors that lead up to the incident."