On Jan. 31, Jeffrey Turner, 41, died in Toledo after being zapped by a Taser nine times in two separate bursts, Newsday reports. Toledo has become one battleground in a national debate over scores of deaths following Taser use that has put the weapon’s maker, Taser International, on the defensive and left cops uncertain about whether, when and how to deploy stun guns. Their manufacturer says Tasers are deployed by 7,000 police departments and 100,000 officers in the U.S. abroad. Amnesty International and several newspapers have identified nearly 103 cases in the U.S. and Canada since 2001 in which individuals died after being hit with a Taser.
Critics complain that police faith in the Taser’s purported safety has led to its overuse. The gun has been used in schools and at nursing homes, against children as young as six, senior citizens as old as 75, and pregnant women. Responding to complaints has become almost a full-time job for Taser. Last month, on his third visit to lobby Toledo-area police and politicians since Turner’s death, company president and co-founder Tom Smith addressed a gathering of police chiefs. “They’re very active on the damage control,” said Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre, who has restricted Taser by his officers. “That’s all just business to them. To me, business is the least of my worries. I’ve got a community that is very worried about Tasers.”