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Fresno man dies after being tasered by a sheriff's deputy

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A man died after being shot with a Taser by a Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy.

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Passing motorists reported seeing the man dodging traffic on Highway 99 near the Highway 180 on ramp. Deputies arrived to try and save the man and prevent an accident. But Detective Robert Buenrostro says the man wasn't cooperating.

"He's coming in and out of the traffic, he's in the center median coming in and out of the vehicles, almost getting hit. They are trying to address him. They have to take him into custody in that process a Taser had to be used."

Detective Buenrostro says deputies performed CPR on the man within 30 seconds of using the Taser. A passing motorist told Action News he saw the man handcuffed on the ground, moving about and apparently agitated.

Buenrostro said; "Subject was subdued, taken into custody, and eventually EMS was called to come and treat the subject as normal policies and procedures dictate when you use a Taser. Soon after that he's taken to the hospital where later he is pronounced dead."

An autopsy will determine the man's cause of death, but in recent years Tasers have been implicated in several deaths in Fresno and other Valley cities.

In September of last year Tribal Police at the Tachi Palace Casino used a Taser on a man causing a disturbance in the parking lot. He died a short time later in a Kings County Hospital.

In March of 2010 a Tulare man, Robert Olivo died shortly after being shot with a Taser and handcuffed by Tulare Police.

In January of 2007 a Fresno man, Pete Madrid died after being shot with a Taser several times by a Fresno Police officer.

In August of 2004 a Fresno man, Michael Sanders died after being shot with a Fresno Police Taser.

In addition to deaths there have been lawsuits. In June of 2010 an off duty Merced County Sheriff's Deputy was shot with a Taser fired by Chowchilla Police. Domingo Leyro was awarded nearly $150 thousand in damages after filing suit in Federal Court,

The weapons work by stunning the victim with 50 thousand volts of electricity. The goal is to subdue, not kill. But statistics compiled by Amnesty International link Tasers to nearly 400 hundred deaths between 2001 and 2008.

Medically the shock from a Taser can trigger Ventricular Fibrillation, a rapid and erratic heart rhythm that can cause death instantly, or within days.

Many who die after being shot with a Taser also had other factors, like stimulant drugs in their systems. Others with heart or other health problems can also be susceptible to death or serious health complications after being hit with a Taser.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, five police officers in different departments across the country, who were shot with Tasers during training suffered serious injuries and have filed lawsuits against the weapons manufacturer.

There are questions as to under what circumstances these weapons should be used. A 2010 ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Tasers should only be used if the "Suspect poses and immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others."

The court's ruling came in the case of a Coronado police officer who stopped a 21 year old man for not wearing a seat belt. The man was shot with the Taser after getting out of his car and yelling at the officer. He fell on the pavement and broke several teeth after being shot with the Taser. The court called it a case of excessive force.

The Taser's used by the Fresno County Sheriff's Department have built in cameras to record video whenever they are used. This should be helpful in the investigation of the Highway 99 case, which is being handled by the department's Homicide Unit.

The name of the man who died in this latest incident had not been released as of Tuesday night.

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fresno, fresno county, fresno county sheriff department, local, gene haagenson
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