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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Deputy under fire for "excessive force" with taser

This is our 150th Post with the Blog Tasered While Black.

What We Think About Taser Abuse

Charles Green admits he has a problem with crack cocaine.

He admits he had crack on him the night of Jan. 17.

He admits he ran from police to avoid arrest and might have swallowed some of the crack while hiding it in his mouth.

But the 45-year-old Columbia man says he didn’t deserve to be stunned with a Taser gun multiple times, especially after he was handcuffed, by a Richland County sheriff’s deputy.

“I’m a human being,” Green told The State. “Don’t no one deserve that — a dog doesn’t deserve that.”

The 6-foot-tall, 225-pound Green contends the Taser shocks caused him to be hospitalized for two months for kidney failure, seizures, breathing problems and severe muscle weakness. In a report, one of Green’s doctors suspected nerve damage in his right leg was caused by the Taser shocks, as well as burns to his foot.

But according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and Green’s medical records provided to The State, his health problems stemmed mainly from swallowing cocaine before he was arrested.

Lott said Green, whom deputies apprehended near a suspected drug hangout, refused to spit out the crack and could have died had he swallowed all of it.


Green, an 8th-grade dropout with three children, admits he has been on the wrong side of the law plenty of times in his life — particularly with drugs.

He had been arrested nine times by Columbia police, Richland County sheriff’s deputies or Cayce police since 1988, mainly on violent or drug-related charges, records show.

His convictions include possession with intent to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute drugs near a school, disorderly conduct and interfering with police, records show.

Green said assault charges against him in 1988 and 1999 were dismissed; records don’t indicate an outcome in those cases.

He said before the January incident, he was working for a local tree-cutting company.

On the night of Jan. 17, Richland County deputies, who were doing surveillance on a nearby house, stopped the Pontiac Aztek SUV Green and a friend were in on Clairton Court, located near Monticello Road along Columbia’s northwest side.

Green told The State he had “about three rocks” of crack cocaine he was planning to smoke at a friend’s house near his home.

Green said he feared being arrested for having the cocaine on him — and for violating probation on an earlier drug charge — so he decided to flee on foot.

While being chased into a field, Green said he was hit in the back with the first Taser shot.

He immediately fell to the ground and was cuffed, he said. A deputy then put the stun gun directly on his lower back — below his “House of Pain” tattoo — and began firing it repeatedly for no apparent reason, Green said.

“I didn’t resist,” he recalled. “The second time, I passed out.”

Green’s older sister, Helen Green, who lives with him, told The State she heard the commotion from a nearby house and went outside to investigate.

“I was yelling, ‘Y’all gonna kill him; y’all gonna bust his head; y’all got him in handcuffs; leave him alone,’” she told The State, crying. “He was hollerin’ ... ‘Jesus, please make them stop.’”

Then, “he wasn’t moving,” she said. “I thought he was dead.”


Hodges in his report said he had no choice but to use force against Green.

He wrote that after Green refused verbal commands to spit out what deputies believed were drugs, Green “displayed active aggression and bullrushed” him. He said Green then ran about 75 yards across a dark field.

Hodges said he fired his Taser the first time from about eight feet away after he announced he had the weapon but Green continued running. Green immediately dropped to the ground after the electrical probes on wires fired from the gun hit him in the shoulder and tailbone regions, Hodges said.

After Green refused to give him his hands to be cuffed, Hodges said, he “drive” stunned Green — meaning the weapon was placed directly on the skin —on the back and arm. Green then allowed himself to be cuffed, but after refusing more commands to spit out what was in his mouth, Hodges “drive” stunned him two more times, on the shoulder and abdomen, for a total of five times, the deputy said.

“Deputies could see him swallow a white rocklike substance,” Hodges said in his report, noting he “did not want Green to harm himself by swallowing more drugs than he already had.”

Green spit out a bag containing a “white rocklike substance” and later spit out another bag of the substance, which Hodges in his report noted weighed about 8 grams. He said he also collected “several small rocklike substances” that another deputy saw Green throw onto the ground, and found a small amount of marijuana on the floorboard of the SUV where Green had been sitting.

Later at the hospital, Green tested positive for cocaine in his system, Hodges said in his report, noting a “white rocklike substance” was retrieved while pumping his stomach.

“In this officer’s mind, he was trying to save his life,” Lott told The State. “My personal opinion was that it was justified.”

Those computerized records show the weapon was fired a total of six times starting at 10:47 p.m. and continuing through 11:01 p.m., Lott said.

Half of the shots lasted a total of seven seconds each; the other half, five seconds each, according to the records cited by Lott. There was about a 13-minute gap between the third and fourth shots, though the incident report doesn’t specifically mention it.

The department’s use-of-force guidelines say Tasers can be used in “defensive resistance” situations, such as fleeing, struggling to escape and “muscle tensing.” It does not specifically address situations in which suspects refuse to spit out drugs, though it notes that Tasers shouldn’t be used against “passively resistant subjects.”

Lott said he believes the use of Tasers to get a suspect to spit out suspected drugs is appropriate, explaining the other methods used in the past — such as hitting the suspect or sticking fingers in the suspect’s mouth — carry greater risks to both.

Lott said his records show that Tasers were fired by his deputies a total of 121 times in 2006, 143 times in 2007 and 76 times through August of this year.


What We Think About Taser Abuse

TWB Publisher say: This case is under review by the FBI. As reported by Charleston.net the FBI launched an investigation after The State of Columbia began examining the Jan. 17 incident in August. The U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is reviewing the FBI's evidence in the case, said Brent Gray, the division's deputy chief.

What We Think About Taser Abuse

The publisher of this blog is also the publisher of African American Political Pundit.com

Tasered While Black.

We are not against taser use as an alternative to deadly force. We are however against taser abuse by police who would use of a taser on the young, elderly, pregnant or physically frail; people offering passive, rather than active resistance; and restrained prisoners.

The publisher of this blog is available to conduct presentations on the issue of taser use for police agencies, governmental bodies, and groups in the U.S. and abroad.

Contact him via email at: tasedwhileblack@gmail.com

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