On Wednesday, the University of Cincinnati agreed to settle a lawsuit with the family of a student who died after being shocked with a Taser. The settlement was for $2 million, and the university has suspended use of Tasers by university police.
In addition, the settlement calls for the university to create both a memorial bench and plaque at the site of the student’s death, as well as provide free tuition to his siblings and send a sympathy letter to the family to show remorse. The letter was written by University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono, and he said that he “want(s) to extend our very deepest regrets to you and your family for the loss of your son. By all accounts, he was a truly amazing young man with a tremendously bright future ahead of him.”
The student died on August 6, 2011, after an altercation with a university police officer. The cause of death could not be determined by the coroner, but the student’s family suggest the cause of death to be Taser shock.
This young man’s unfortunate death spurred a national debate over the safety and proper use of Tasers, which uses electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles, causing “neuromuscular incapacitation.”
The student’s lawyer considers the $2 million settlement as “substantial,” and hopes it will deter other police departments from using Tasers, or at least to use more caution before use. He added, “for these parents, there is no amount of money that could ever replace their son. It was important to them to approach this litigation with the goal of making a difference and preventing future deaths.”
A University of Cincinnati spokesman said that the school has no plan of using the Tasers “until we have more information about their effectiveness.”
According to the University of Cincinnati’s internal report, the officer was not at fault, and he initially encountered the student at approximately 2 a.m. when he responded to a call about a fight. Witnesses told the investigators that the student did not throw any punches in the fight and was actually trying to defend a friend from attackers.
The officer claims that the student was walking towards him with clenched fists, shortly after punching the ground. The officer was worried about the younger, athletic student, and that he could possibly disarm the officer. He said one barb from his Taser hit the student around the waist area and another midway near his chest. He immediately called paramedics when the student was unresponsive after the shock of the Taser. “The whole intent was not to kill him. I was just trying to get this kid under control.”
It is unfortunate that this family lost their son because of an altercation like this. Do you think Tasers should be banned on all college campuses, or do you think they are a good safety tool? Leave comments on this blog post. Feel free to contact a Gacovino Lake attorney at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).