Monday, December 31, 2007

Jesse Saenz' Raton, NM post-taser death- Different Henhouse, Same Foxes

police fox in taser henhouseI get comments so infrequently here! I hate to be negative about any of them. This post is in response to a thoughtful comment to my earlier post about a flawed Wake Forest University taser injury study. The responder wrote:

“Say what you wish but I would much rather be shot with a Taser than with a 9mm. The reality is that the persons being shot have predominately caused a scenario to unfold wherein they have or are about to cause bodily or deadly harm to themselves or someone else. Again, stopping the threat is the main desire and I would preferred to be stopped by a 5 second Taser hit than a possible deadly hit from a 9mm or other weapon.”

Thanks for the comment- but this is is a false dichotomy. I'd rather be shot with a taser than with a 9mm myself, but I'd much rather not be shot at all.

Taser use often has nothing to do with threats to the victim, to bystanders, or to the officers. They're increasingly used not for defense or to avoid the use of deadly force but to terrify or simply force compliance with the officers' demands. Too many are not a low-voltage five-second jab in drive-stun mode (pressing the taser against the target) but sustained and repeated shocks administered through taser darts embedded in the victim's flesh and under full control of the attacker. Case in point...

This weekend the Las Cruces Sun-News ran an AP report describing how city police officers used two tasers to shock a Raton man 23 times. Jesse Saenz died before reaching the county detention center. A witness states that there was no struggle, and that the shocks continued over a period of five minutes. The AP report says that the exact cause of his death has not been determined. The officers using the Tasers said the devices malfunctioned, of course- they're unlikely to admit that they hosed Jesse unnecessarily for an extended period of time.

Watch the KOAT (7) Albequerque video here- the victim's sister claims that he was handcuffed at the time. Watch Captain Mike Galardi Of the Raton PD state that the taser was used to force compliance, not in response to a deadly threat. Hear police claim that they tasered the victim once, and hear a witness describe watching multiple extended taser flashes and hearing Jesse scream for five minutes.

The incident has been turned over to the New Mexico State Police for investigation. Will they investigate until the truth is revealed and then report it honestly, or will they protect their brothers in law enforcement? See my earlier post about Foxes guarding the Henhouse.