Mother files suit after her 8-year-old is Tasered by police for wielding a knife
Police with Taser [Flickr creative commons]

The mother of an  8-year-old who was tasered by South Dakota police last October has filed a federal lawsuit claiming police used excessive force violating the child's civil rights, according to the Rapid City Journal.


Dawn Stenstrom filed the suit on behalf of her daughter --  identified in court documents as 'L.M.J.' -- naming Pierre police chief Robert Grandpre, police officers “John and Jane Does 1-4” , and the city of Pierre as defendants  in U.S. District Court on Thursday.

According to attorney Dana Hanna, "Four police officers in close proximity to an eight-year-old Indian child with a kitchen knife in her hand made no attempt to simply grab the knife from the girl or grab the girl's arm. Instead, within minutes of arriving on the scene, one of them shot her with a Taser."

According to police reports, officers arrived at the girl’s home after a babysitter called them saying the girl was holding a knife and threatening to hurt herself. Upon arriving, officers instructed the girl to drop the knife -- described as a paring knife -- and, after failing to comply, one of the officers shot her in the chest with his Taser.

According to the lawsuit, "The force of the electricity shot through her body, lifted her and threw her against the wall.After the officers had stunned L.M.J. into high voltage submission, they pulled the fish-hook like Taser darts from her chest, gave her emergency medical attention, bandaged the holes left by the razor-sharp hooks and called an ambulance."

According to Hanna, being shot with about 50,000 volts of electricity has left the girl traumatized  psychologically and emotionally in addition to her physical injuries.

Hanna stated, "There is no excuse for cops to use a Taser on an eight-year-old child."

Officers maintain the girl pointed the knife at them before placing it against her chest. Following an investigation, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation ruled that the officer acted appropriately.

Pierre police chief Robert Grandpre has defended the officers, saying, "He [the officer who deployed the Taser] quite possibly saved the juvenile's life that night."

Grandpre added, "We can't control if the threat is 8 [years old] or 80."

The complaint asks for over $100,000 in actual damages, with  additional of punitive damages to be determined at trial including attorneys fees.