Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Police Taser wheelchair bound granny to death

This blog documented numerous cases where police use of Tasers resulted in the death of the individual. This, allegedly “safe” form of control is, in fact, dangerous and lethal.

When dealing with mentally disturbed individuals there is a problem. Police think that threatening someone with a Taser will get them to obey orders. That assumes a functioning rational process. If the person is irrational this threat rarely works. Instead of finding other means of dealing with the situation the trigger happy cops just Taser someone to make life easy for themselves, even if that leads to the unnecessary death of the person involved. Our previous article on numerous such killings is here.

Emily Delafied had mental problems. She was schizophrenic. She was also confined to a wheelchair, which certainly limited her mobility and the type of threat she could become. It wasn’t as if she could leap at someone and harm them. And to direct her chair she needed to use her hands. She couldn’t pursue someone easily and carry a weapon at the same time. In addition her family says her range of motion was very limited. And due to her medical condition she was on oxygen. Clearly this was a fragile woman who really couldn’t pose a real threat.

In April 2006 Emily didn’t take her medication and she had an episode. I knew a schizophrenic who periodically got the idea in his head that Jesus would heal him, and to show his faith he had to stop taking his pills. The result was always a pretty scary psychotic episode. And that is what happened to Emily.

That day she called the police saying her sister was going to hurt her. When police arrived they found Delafield in her chair holding two knives and a hammer. She would swing them at family who approached her believing they were going to hurt her. It appears from press reports that Delafield was hallucinating that she was under threat and was trying to protect herself. There is no indication that she was planning to harm herself.

Clearly the woman couldn't be reasoned with and threats would make the situation worse. No one else was under immediate threat. Family could vacate the premises quite easily. Delafield was in no position to pursue. The situation seems relatively easy. Vacate the area, keep Delafield confined and under surveillance, try to talk to her from a distance so she doesn’t feel threatened and wait.

If she was trying to harm herself then perhaps a different strategy would be necessary. If she was able to harm others then a different strategy would be necessary. If unable to do either then a little patience, until she calmed down, may have resolved the case. Police were clearly impatient. They used the Taser on the woman after “a 13-minute standoff” -- just 13 minutes. That was the entire amount of time they were willing to invest in trying to find a non-lethal way of solving this problem.

Police were impatient. One police officer used a Taser on Delafield nine times and a second officer used a Taser once, all in under three minutes. The repeated shocks combined with a heart condition to kill the woman. The medical examiner listed cause of death as a homicide.

Police Chief Robert Musco tried to justify the killing saying that the use of the Taser, ten times, “was utilized and the subject was disarmed.” True, she was disarmed, she was dead. It is very critical to remember what sort of threat this “armed” women posed. First, she was in her late 50s, not a spring chicken. Second, she was confined to a wheelchair. She wasn’t going to leap tall buildings in a single bound. She couldn’t even easily hold her weapons and operate her chair at the same time. She had limited range of motion and needed oxygen just to breath. This wasn’t Rambo but an older woman in a wheelchair with extremely limited ability to inflict harm on anyone.

Of course the police officers were cleared. They always are. The only way that bad cops go down is when they are taped committing the offense.