The death of an autistic man after police shocked him with a stun gun has put the Des Plaines, Il., Police Department in the middle of a national debate over such weapons, reports the Chicago Tribune. Determining what killed Hansel Cunningham could take weeks. Police shocked Cunningham, 30, twice with a Taser on Sunday after a caregiver at his group home summoned them because Cunningham had severely bitten him. Officers also used pepper spray on Cunningham, then tackled and handcuffed him.
Paramedics sedated Cunningham after he was restrained, and he began to have breathing difficulties. Cunningham’s is the latest in a number of deaths that have occurred after the use of Tasers, a stun gun that shoots two stabbing prongs that deliver a disabling jolt of 50,000 volts. Though some groups have blamed Tasers for 150 deaths, the Cook County medical examiner’s office in Chicago documented the first death in the U.S. primarily attributable to a stun gun. In that Feb 10 incident, Chicago police used a Taser on Ronald Hasse when he tried to bite an officer. In addition to being shocked by a Taser, methamphetamine intoxication was a contributing cause in Hasse’s death, the medical examiner reported.