Report: Border agents used stun guns on fleeing suspects

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Border agents allegedly used stun guns on fleeing suspects.

LOS ANGELES — U.S. border authorities fired stun guns at least 70 times over four years at people who were running away, even though there was no struggle or clear indication that agents were in danger, a newspaper reported Friday. Billed as a safer alternative to firearms for law enforcement use, Tasers can nonetheless inflict injuries, even lethal ones, and are responsible for dozens of injuries in the hands of federal border patrol officers. Two people were shocked while they were handcuffed, and two were hit with five cycles of the weapon, even though the agency’s policy says no one should receive more than three. So efforts have been made to discourage use of the electronic stun guns, except in situations where they are clearly needed, according to a lengthy Los Angeles Times (sub. req.) article, which reviews 450 reported incidents of Taser use by border patrol agents between 2010 and 2013. Several died, including one man who burned to death after an agent smashed a window, leaned into his vehicle and deployed the Taser inside, accidentally setting the vehicle on fire, the newspaper reports.

The nation’s largest law enforcement agency, which oversees the Border Patrol and inspectors at ports of entry, decided in 2008 to supply agents with the hand-held devices that deliver a paralyzing electric charge as a way to end confrontations quickly and safely. But their complaint was nixed last month by a judge, who said the Taser use was reasonable given the subject’s “extremely reckless driving” and a risk that he could have used a weapon, or fled. Most of the targets of the Taser deployments were trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico, suspected of being in this country illegally or simply fleeing, sometimes by trying to return to Mexico, rather than being involved in any violent crime, according to the article. “When you put that weapon out there and they have access to it, they’re going to use it,” said Ralph Basham.

While “not risk-free,” said spokesman Steve Tuttle of Taser International, the company that makes the stun guns, “you have to look at this relative to other uses.”

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