Thursday, June 01, 2006

I love my pals Jim & Chris. They are like brothers to me.

This is one of the few disagreement points, and the more I consider it, the more I realize it is a problem not with Tasers, but with the San Jose Police department.

Chris points out, we DO need more GOOD cops out there, guys like Jim.

San Jose could take lessons. Here's why:

yes, he would have croaked from the beat down, but TWENTY zaps with a Taser? TWENTY?????

After they pepper sprayed him?

Posted on Thu, Jun. 01, 2006

Use of Tasers aided death, coroner finds
By Linda Goldston
Mercury News

For the second time this year, the coroner's office has concluded that the use of Tasers by San Jose police contributed to the death of a man they were trying to arrest.

Dr. Christopher Happy, Santa Clara County's medical examiner, said it was likely Jorge Luis Trujillo would have died from injuries he suffered from being beaten with a baseball bat by a group of men in downtown San Jose before he encountered police on the night of Jan. 25.

But being zapped 20 times with Taser stun guns by officers about 90 minutes after that beating was a contributing factor in the death of the 34-year-old San Jose man, Happy said. Trujillo died a day later in the hospital.

``It would be very unlikely he would have survived the previous beating,'' Happy said, but added that police ``actions contributed to his death. Whether they were correct or wrong is not for me to say.''

The finding is the latest in an ongoing controversy over use of the 50,000-volt stun guns by police. Earlier this year, the coroner's office concluded the use of Tasers and pepper spray in November by San Jose police on Jose Angel Rios was ``a contributory cause of death'' in that case.

And in March, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith accused San Jose police of trying to pressure the coroner's office to stop listing Tasers as a factor in officer-involved deaths. Several top-level police officials visited the coroner's office in February in the wake of Rios' autopsy and as Happy was evaluating Trujillo's death.

Police denied the sheriff's allegations and said they were just trying to clarify a confusing and contradictory autopsy report on Rios.

Investigation pending

In the Trujillo case, a police representative said he would not comment on specifics of the case because ``it is an open, unsolved homicide investigation.''

``But we're still puzzled that the coroner's office can determine that tasering can contribute to someone's death when, to our knowledge, there is no scientific proof that tasers can cause death,'' officer Enrique Garcia said.

The coroner's findings are ``a reminder that tasers are dangerous weapons that need to be regulated,'' said Mark Schlossberg, police practices expert for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

``Whether or not its use was justified in this case, the fact is that multiple applications of Tasers are associated with deaths in so many cases that it should put departments on notice that they should use these weapons with caution and tightly regulate them.''

Schlossberg called the 20 taser shocks against Trujillo ``unusual.''

Police guidelines

After concerns were raised by the local independent police auditor, San Jose police adopted new guidelines last year, limiting the use of Tasers on handcuffed people, pregnant women, the elderly and children.

According to the coroner's report on Trujillo, San Jose police used two Tasers on the man -- one of them 12 times, the other eight times.

Trujillo also suffered more than 40 blunt-force injuries, including being struck by police batons. Police said they had used their batons on Trujillo to try to subdue him. Happy said, ``There is no way for me to tell on most of the injuries if they were caused by a baseball bat or a baton.'' Toxicology reports showed no signs of illegal drugs.

The pathologist also said he could not tell how many of the 20 Taser bursts actually electrified Trujillo. A chip contained in the devices allows authorities to determine how many times the devices are fired and for how long, but cannot reveal if all of them were felt by a suspect.

``Could a Taser itself have caused death? My opinion is most likely not,'' Happy said. ``Hundreds of thousands of people have been tased multiple times in the U.S. and Canada, and they haven't died. But do some people die? Yes.''

Jorge Luis Trujillo

Police received a 911 call on Jan. 25 about a man being beaten by a group of men with a baseball bat at South 22nd Street and East San Fernando Street. By the time police arrived, the suspects had fled and the victim was gone.

About 1 1/2 hours later, police received a call about a suspicious man breaking into cars in the 1200 block of Woodborough Place. Trujillo was covered in blood when officers arrived and was smashing a garden hoe against a car. He refused to talk to officers or to allow them near.

Officers first used pepper spray on Trujillo. When he still refused to respond to their commands, they hit him with their batons. Finally, both officers fired Tasers and took him into custody.
Mercury News Staff Writer Rodney Foo contributed to this report. Contact Linda Goldston at or (408) 920-5862.

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