Over the weekend, police in Bay City, Michigan killed a 15-year old boy with a Taser. The boy–Brett Elder–was the second minor to be killed with a Taser this year.
The human rights group Amnesty International–who has long been critical of Tasers–issued a statement criticizing the use of Tasers, saying that the incident “shows the imperative need for further tests on the safety of the electro-shock weapon.”
According to Amnesty International, 351 people have been killed by Tasers since June 2001. The organization says that police departments should stop using Tasers pending further safety studies or to restrict their use to situations where they are necessary to protect life.
Witness and Police Accounts of Killing Differ
At a news conference on Tuesday, Bay City Police said they acted appropriately, despite the fact that there is debate over exactly what happened. The teenager’s family was barred from the news conference.
According to the police, they used the Taser after they were unable to diffuse an argument between Elder and another teenager. When Elder turned towards the officers and “became unruly and took a fighting stance against the officers,” one officer used a Taser.
Police and Elder’s family disagree about the specifics of the event, with Elder’s family saying that he was shot twice with the Taser and that police waited 20 minutes before giving him medical attention. Police say that they shot him only once and immediately administered medical attention.
According to witnesses, Elder “was flopping around and looked like a fish out of water” after he was shot.
Michigan State Police are investigating the case and the officer who used the Taser is on paid administrative leave.
Second High Profile Use of Police Force in Michigan this Month
The killing of Brett Elder is the second high profile case of police using what critics are saying is excessive force. Earlier this month, Ottawa County police shot an unarmed college student.
As always, it’s important to remember that these are only reported examples of police abuse and do not count the everyday abuse–from racial profiling to excessive force–that occurs.