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Tasers are often viewed as a non-lethal alternative to subdue criminal suspects, but they are far from perfectly safe. Victims have suffered miscarriages, brain damage, and even death. Therefore, tasers should be used rarely and only with good reason.
It turns out that a man asking "What for?" while his hands are above his head and his back is facing police is not a good enough reason. Darsean Kelley got a $110,000 settlement from the city of Aurora, Colorado, without even having to file a lawsuit, after body camera footage showed officer an officer tasing him in the back.
I Know My Rights
The footage of Kelley's tasing is not easy to watch, as his body stiffens, he falls backward onto the sidewalk, and can be heard crying afterward. The ACLU, who took up Kelley's case, described the scene:
Police in Aurora, Colorado, got a call about a man pulling a gun on a kid. They had no description of the suspect. On their way to the scene, they stopped two Black men walking down the sidewalk.
Darsean Kelley, one of the men, followed the officers' orders to hold his hands above his head and turn around. His repeated requests for an explanation as to why they had been detained went unanswered. Even though it was clear he had no weapons and he was no threat to the officers, Darsean was tased in the back just as he said, "I know my rights." Darsean fell backwards and hit his head on the pavement.
Kelley was arrested for disorderly conduct, or failure to obey a lawful order, after he was tased. That charge was dropped, but not before he spent three days in jail, unable to post his bond.
Suing the police can be tricky, but a lawsuit wasn't even necessary in this case. While Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman stood behind the officers' actions, he said the settlement was a financial decision. "We disagree with the ACLU's characterization of the events in this case and their unwarranted attack against the Aurora Police Department," Hyman said in a statement. "This case was settled for the reason that many cases are settled -- to avoid the cost of prolonged litigation. That cost would have far exceeded the value of the settlement."
There was no punishment for the police officers involved, after an internal review board determined the use of force "was reasonable, appropriate, and within policy."