Cop Watch

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Suspect dies, another hospitalized after separate stun gun incidents

One man is dead and another injured in the wake of separate incidents within a week in which police attempts to subdue suspects involved the use of Taser stun guns.

In the most recent incident, a San Jose man working at his home computer was startled by an unknown suspect kicking open his condominium door shortly after 4 a.m. Monday.

The resident, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 350 pounds, confronted and fought with the intruder, who police identified only as a 33-year-old man.

The intruder fled, and the victim chased him to a nearby AM/PM minimarket, where the two fought violently, both inside and outside the store. San Jose police responded and separated the combatants, who police said were almost exhausted by the lengthy struggle.

At that point the alleged home intruder attempted to flee the scene, police said, and struggled with police after they chased him down on foot. The suspect was shocked by a stun gun, doused with pepper spray and struck with a baton before officers attempted to immobilize him in a body-length fabric corset intended to bind a suspect's arms and legs.

At that point the suspect's heart stopped, according to police spokeswoman Gina Tepoorten. Officers began CPR immediately, Tepoorten said, and the suspect was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he later died.

San Jose police say an autopsy is being performed but results could take weeks to obtain.

In a case Friday night, Eric Mahoney, 33, of Alameda was hit with a Taser jolt about 11 p.m. after fleeing from and fighting with Fremont officers, authorities said. Mahoney was arrested on drug charges and is in critical condition at Washington Hospital in Fremont, where he was also being treated for a separate medical condition, police said.

Some police watchdog groups have demanded that police stop using Taser guns, arguing that the electric shocks administered by the weapons are causing unnecessary deaths.

Police say many Taser-related deaths are accompanied by overdoses of illegal stimulant drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as violent physical struggles with police who respond to a suspect's drug-induced frenzy. Taser advocates say that without the stun gun, officers would use their sidearms more frequently to subdue violent suspects, resulting in even more deaths.