Autopsy: 3-Minute Taser Shock Killed N.C. Jail Inmate


A Lancaster County, N.C. sheriff’s deputy shocked a jail inmate for an uninterrupted 2 minutes, 49 seconds before he collapsed and died during a fight with four officers in July, says an autopsy report obtained by the Charlotte Observer. Tasers are designed to paralyze a person’s muscles for five seconds by firing two probes into the clothing or skin that deliver a single electrical blast. The devices can shock a person longer if the user continues to hold down the trigger after the probes embed. The minutes-long jolt came after Maurice Cunningham was shocked five other times, ranging from five to nine seconds each, the report said.

The probes that embedded in Cunningham’s left thigh and left arm completed a circuit in his body that disrupted the electrical system that controls the heart, the report said. The autopsy said Cunningham, who’d never attacked officers before, had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, possibly schizophrenia. Officers tried to subdue Cunningham after he stabbed two officers in the eyes with pencils and lunged at two others. The Observer obtained the autopsy report from the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office after filing a request under South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act. Coroner Mike Morris has ruled that the Taser caused the 29-year-old’s death. Ed Jackson of Amnesty International, who follows Taser cases, said a two-minute, 49-second shock would be the longest he’d heard.


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