The maker of the Taser says the electroshock weapon is the safest tool on a police officer’s belt, with caveats. In pages of warnings, Axon Enterprise Inc advises police to beware that some people are at higher risk of death or serious injury from the weapons, including pregnant women, young children, the frail or elderly, those with heart conditions, and individuals on drugs or alcohol, Reuters reports. Taken together, the tally of people particularly susceptible to harm from a Taser’s powerful shock covers nearly a third of the U.S. population, a Reuters analysis of demographic and health data found. Yet police have repeatedly used Tasers on people who fall into the groups the company warns about.
Last winter, a New York City police officer fired his Taser’s electrified barbs into the rib cage of Dailene Rosario, 17, as she screamed she was pregnant. Thanks to a video taken by a bystander, the world watched as Rosario, 14 weeks into her term, crumpled to the ground, wailing. Rosario’s daughter Raileey survived, but in September, the two-month-old was rushed to the hospital, struggling to breathe after developing tremors and coughing fits. Raileey spent nearly all of November in a hospital. Rosario’s lawyer, Scott Rynecki, plans to make the baby’s health a central issue in a $5 million claim she has filed against the New York Police Department. It is not known how often police use Tasers on pregnant women and the other “higher-risk populations” the manufacturer warns about: The stun guns are unregulated as police weapons, and there is no national tracking of their use. People in those groups account for more than half of the 1,028 cases identified by Reuters in which people died after being shocked by Tasers, often along with other force.