Taser zaps California man’s short-term memory: claim
A California man is the first to make TASER International the sole defendant in an injury lawsuit. Steve Butler had a cardiac arrest after being shocked multiple times. Butler’s brain was deprived of oxygen for 18 minutes causing him to lose almost all short-term memory.
On October 7, 2006, Santa Cruz police say the 51-year-old refused to get off a Metro bus. According to a report, he was drunk and challenged the responding officer to a fight. Police then shocked him at least three times with a Taser.
The shocks left Butler in full cardiac arrest and not breathing. Paramedics were able to revive him but 18 minutes without oxygen left him permanently disabled. Butler now has almost no short-term memory.
The Santa Cruz man’s family is suing TASER International. Their attorney is claiming the company knew that their weapons could cause fatal heart injuries.
“We can prove that they must have known by early 2006, but we suspect that they had all the necessary data in 2005 since they were funding the study,” attorney John Burton told CNN.
A study that focused on shocking pigs and generalizing results to humans found that tasers were unlikely to cause cardiac arrest. TASER International funded and published the study early in 2006. It recommended not firing the electronic darts near the chest. TASER says they changed their guidelines not because shocking victims could cause heart failure but to mitigate the risk of lawsuits to police departments.
Heart expert Douglas Zipes told CNN that the study means that TASER knew there was some risk of cardiac arrest. “I think TASER has been disingenuous, and certainly up to 2006, the case we’re talking about, TASER said in their educational materials that there was no cardiac risk whatsoever,” said Zipes.
TASER declined to respond to CNN but in a court filing said TASER devices are “repeatedly proven safe through testing, including on human volunteers in controlled medically approved studies, and there’s no evidence tasering of people induces cardiac arrest.”
This video is from CNN’s American Morning, broadcast March 8, 2010.