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Published: Wednesday, 4/27/2005

FBI asked to review Taser use in jail death

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The FBI will review requests from a former Toledo NAACP president and a civil rights activist for an investigation into the death of a central Toledoan whom authorities shocked nine times with a Taser.

In a separate development, the company that manufactures the stun guns announced yesterday it assembled more than 240 law enforcement, academic, medical, military, and other individuals to initiate a comprehensive, international dialogue on a use-of-force policy as it relates to nonlethal weapons.

A study released this month by Amnesty International found more than 103 Taser-related deaths in the United States and Canada between June, 2001, and March, 2005.

Two weeks ago, Dr. James Patrick, Lucas County coroner, ruled multiple Taser shocks contributed to the Jan. 31 death of Jeffrey Turner and ruled his death a homicide.

He said the 41-year-old died primarily as a result of pre-existing heart disease, which most likely was due to high blood pressure.

Since his death closely coincided with the application of multiple Taser shocks particularly those applied by sheriff s personnel during an altercation at the county jail about three hours after his arrest that also contributed to his death, the coroner said.

County Prosecutor Julia Bates said her office would conduct a review of the incident before deciding whether to take any action. An investigator with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is assisting.

Mrs. Bates did not know how long the investigation would take, but she said every aspect of the facts would be reviewed, including use of the devices, safety protocols, and training.

Upon hearing the coroner s ruling, David Taylor III, a former president of the NAACP s Toledo branch, sent a letter to the Toledo FBI office demanding an immediate investigation by the U.S.

Justice Department into what he called a violation of Turner s civil rights.

In his response, Special Agent James DeLong, head of the Toledo FBI office, wrote: Although this office will not be in a position to advise you on whether or not a civil rights investigation has been initiated, if such action is taken, the ultimate disposition of such matter will rest with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in consultation with the U.S. attorney s office.

Mr. Taylor said he was very disappointed by the FBI response. This is a matter of public concern, and I think they need to be a bit more open and responsive to this issue. It sounds to me they don t want to pay the complainant that much attention, he said.

Mr. Taylor, a Toledo lawyer who said he is not acting on behalf of the Turner family or the NAACP, is going to send the FBI more information. He has requested a copy of the videotape of Turner s booking at the jail in an April 23 letter to Sheriff James Telb.

I don t know why [the authorities are] acting so strange about this, Turner s brother, Shawn, said.

He said his family is gathering information about what happened to Turner and are gonna take the upper hand and follow this thing along.

City police approached Turner outside the Toledo Museum of Art on a loitering complaint. They shocked him five times with a Taser to subdue him after they said he refused to identify himself or comply with police instructions and fought being taken into custody.

The 6-foot, 3-inch, 220-pound man was carried into the jail, where he ate before becoming agitated in his cell. Jail officials said he struggled when they tried to restrain him, and they shocked him four times with a different Taser model.

A nurse sent to his cell as a matter of procedure after the Taser s use found him unresponsive. He died a short time later at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

In a news release announcing the use-of-force policy group, Taser s chief strategy officer, Dave DuBay, said the company believes that questions regarding use of force and the deployment of non-lethal weapons are best decided by law enforcement and the communities in which they are used.

A formal review and analysis of the discussion will be issued by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York in the coming weeks. The final product will be the opinions and viewpoints of the forum participants, not Taser, the release indicated.

Contact Christina Hall atchall@theblade.comor 419-724-6007.



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