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Police use Tasers instead of traditional guns, based on their supposed temporary infliction of pain. However, numerous police suspects have died or suffered permanent brain damage when stunned. A family in Daly City, California has sued the local police department for wrongful death after one of its officers used the Taser to subdue 38 year-old Warren Ragudo, who was suffering from a drug induced mental crisis.
Family members called the police for help that fateful night, and they witnessed the police killing the man they had asked to be saved. The local district attorney's office declares that the use was justified, and will not prosecute the officer. Therefore, the only legal recourse for the family is in civil court.
Ragudo Tased in Front of Family
Warren Ragudo was at his home on the evening of January 16, 2018. He was being highly unruly, under the influence of methamphetamine, and therefore his family called the police for help. Upon arrival, the police found Ragudo to be extremely agitated. They tried to subdue him, but couldn't. Police then Tased Ragudo in order to get him into handcuffs. Ragudo become unresponsive on the floor in front of his family. His family has video footage of the entire event. He was brought to the hospital, but pronounced dead shortly after being admitted.
Proving a Wrongful Death Suit
To prevail in this wrongful death suit, the family will need to prove that Ragudo died due to the police department's negligence or intentional act, and that the act does not qualify for immunity. The autopsy confirmed that Ragudo died from a heart attack due to his agitated mental state, prone restraint, and stun gun usage while under the influence of meth toxicity. The issue will become whether using a Taser on a delirious meth user while he is prone is authorized under the local police department's policy. If it is, the police officer can use "qualified immunity" and avoid liability.
The Proliferation of Tasers and Wrongful Death Lawsuits
According to a recent Reuters Special Report, over 1,042 people have died in the U.S. following police use of Tasers; 442 of these deaths led to a wrongful death suit against the local police department. Approximately three-fifths of those lawsuits resulted in settlement or judgment for the plaintiffs, with an average of about $1 million per case. With figures such as these, police departments may be wondering if the cost of these guns truly outweighs the benefits.
If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of Taser usage by police, contact a local civil rights attorney. Unfortunately, these incidents are not as uncommon as one might think. You may be able to seek justice and damages for your injuries.