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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Taser Sued in San Francisco Following Death of Santa Rosa Man

Posted By on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge One thing's for certain -- this photo wasn't taken in San Francisco
  • One thing's for certain -- this photo wasn't taken in San Francisco
Whatever momentum those hoping to arm the San Francisco Police Department with Tasers didn't lose following the death of Oscar Grant may have been snuffed out this week in San Francisco District Court.

The parents of a 39-year-old mentally ill man who purportedly went into cardiac arrest and died immediately after being Tased by a Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy have fired off a suit against Taser International, Inc., makers of the eponymous "Electronic Control Devices." It all began on Dec. 20, 2009, when the police were summoned to the home of Doris and Ronald Vaughn, after their grown son, Nathan Lewis Vaughn, attacked his father.

The Vaughns claim that their mentally ill son had calmed down by the time a Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy -- whose name they still do not know -- arrived. Nevertheless, the officer "discharged his TASER ECD into the chest of the descendant, Nathan Vaughn, who went into cardiac arrest and died as a proximate result of the TASER ECD shocks. Plaintiffs heard TASER discharge, heard their son fall to the floor, and knew contemporaneously that he was seriously injured or dead. They watched in horror as the fire department and paramedics took his dead body away."

Sonoma County authorities have cleared the deputy in the case, and have claimed that Nathan Vaughn's death was caused by an abuse of prescription medication -- which he had been warned not to do.

In any event, the Vaughns are claiming Tasers are "unreasonably dangerous and defective for use on human beings," and provided training materials to the sheriff's department that didn't adequately spell out the "potential for causing death or great bodily injury, especially when shocks are administered near the heart or repeatedly."

The plaintiffs also claim Taser knowingly lied when it claimed its ECDs are "non-lethal," cannot cause cardiac arrest, that multiple shocks are no more dangerous than a single one, and that firing at a suspect's heart is no more dangerous than shooting him or her elsewhere.

The Vaughns are asking for at least $75,000 for their sons alleged wrongful death, plus "exemplary damages against the defendants in an amount sufficient to make an example of those defendants and defer future misconduct."

Taser has, thus far, exhibited an astounding ability to ward off legal challenges such as this one. If San Francisco cops were given the opportunity to Tase San Francisco residents, however, it's a sure bet the company would be busy warding off many more.

H/T   |   Courthouse News 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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