Fatal Taser Cop Erred, NYPD Says

newtaser.jpg
photo via NY Post

File it under another reason if your mentally unstable loved one goes off the rails not to call the cops to "help."

On Wednesday afternoon Iman Morales' mother called police to her apartment building at 489 Tompkins Street in Bed-Stuy because her 35-year-old emotionally disturbed son was off his medicines, naked and screaming incoherently. When police arrived just before 2 p.m., Morales tried to force his way into a neighbor's apartment and eventually made his way out onto a fire escape having grabbed an eight-foot long fluorescent light tube out of a hallway fixture in the building.

When the police tried to grab Morales off the fire escape the naked man jumped down onto a metal box sitting atop a security gate of a store next to the fire escape. The box holds the security gate when the gate is rolled up.

At this point, the mother was telling the police not to hurt her son and reminding them that he was mentally ill.
When police officers tried to lower themselves onto the security gate box, Morales used the light tube as a lance to keep them at bay. When he did that, a video that the New York Post obtained of the incident, showed that crowd that gathered to watch the bizarre show laughed.

Within seconds of the crowd breaking up, a lieutenant is seen moving in and ordering a helmeted officer who was holding a "Conducted Energy Device," a Taser, to shoot Morales with it. When hit Morales' body went completely stiff causing him to fall from 10-feet, five-inches, onto his head, spilling a river of blood onto the sidewalk.

This morning, faced with the overwhelming video and photographic evidence, the NYPD brass had no alternative but to take action.

According to police spokesman Paul J. Browne: "While officers had radioed for an inflatable bag as the incident unfolded, it had no yet arrived at the scene when Morales fell. None of the ESU officers on the scene were positioned to break his fall, nor did they devise a plan in advance to do so."

Browne continued that, "The order to employ the Taser under these circumstances appears to have violated guidelines, re-issued June 4, 2008, which specifically state that 'when possible, the CED (Taser) should not be used... in situations where the subject may fall from an elevated surface."

The lieutenant who ordered Morales to be Tasered was placed on modified assignment, meaning his gun and badge were taken. The officer who fired the Taser was placed on administrative duties, meaning his retains that hardware.

The fatal Taser gun incidents comes three months after the NYPD announced that it would be equipping more patrol officers with CEDs, in part because that was one of the recommendations that the Rand Corporation made in an evaluation of the NYPD's firearm training and shooting review process. That report was commissioned by the NYPD ostensibly as a response to the November 2006 shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed man who was confronted by police and shot to death around the corner from a Queens strip club where he was celebrating his bachelor party.

But at a press conference this past June at which Rand announced is findings, one of the Rand researchers was forced to admit that the Sean Bell shooting wasn't included as part of their analysis. Instead, the use of Tasers, and expanding their availability to NYPD officers, dominated the discussion that day and the media coverage that followed.

But inexperience does not appear to behind this fatal Taser incident. The officers involved in the incident were part of the Emergency Services Unit, whose team members had access to Taser weapons predating the Rand recommendations and are specially trained in dealing with emotionally disturbed persons.

The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office is investigating the incident to determine if the officers will be charged criminally.


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