An Oklahoma City woman confronted by police outside a homeless shelter is the latest example of someone who died after being shocked with a Taser, reports The Oregonian. Milisha Thompson was on the ground and in handcuffs. Her death has raised questions about whether police are abusing the stun guns by using them as a convenient labor-saving device to control uncooperative people. “It’s a legitimate law-enforcement tool,” said Florida State University criminologist George Kirkham, a former police officer. “But it’s supposed to be used as a defensive weapon. The problem we’re seeing around the country is it’s being used abusively.” Amnesty International USA has counted 250 cases in which people died after being stunned with a Taser. The human rights organization cannot say whether the shock from a Taser actually caused those deaths.
In the Oklahoma City case, Police Chief Bill Citty insisted officers acted appropriately because the 6-foot, 260-pound Thompson was kicking and posed a danger, even though her hands were shackled. Tasers have been listed as a contributing factor in about 12 deaths nationwide, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Scottsdale, Az.-based Taser International Inc.. Some 11,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies use Tasers. In the last two years, Tasers have been used on people in handcuffs in Colonial Beach, Va.; Austin, Tx.; Pensacola, Fl.; and Lorain, Oh., though none of those cases involved deaths.