OT-The End is Nigh

True Stella Awards #36: 30 July 2003
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A Stunning Situation
by Randy Cassingham
Madera, Calif., police officer Marcy Noriega had arrested Everardo
Torres, 24, and had him handcuffed in the back of her police cruiser.
charge was not too extreme: he was arrested "on suspicion of resisting
and delaying police" as they tried to quiet down a noisy party.
Torres, however, was far from cooperative. As he sat in the back of
the police car he kicked at the windows. Officer Noriega decided to
subdue him with her Taser, which fires two metal pins attached to wires
and then charges them with current to "stun" the target.
Amazingly, instead of pulling and shooting Torres with her Taser,
Noriega says she accidentally drew her service handgun and shot him. The
bullet ripped through his heart, liver and right kidney, ensuring his
The District Attorney ruled the shooting accidental and did not file
charges against officer Noriega, but the city admitted liability in the
shooting and offered Torres' family a $350,000 settlement. In response,
the family filed a claim for $10 million. When the city rejected the
claim, the family filed a wrongful death suit in federal court.
Such is not what Stella Awards are made of, however -- complaining
that a professionally trained police officer mistook her firearm for a
non-lethal stun gun to shoot someone in her custody is not frivolous.
Rather, it's what the city said next: officer Noriega isn't at fault for
killing Torres! Not the way she and the city see things, anyway. While
they admit they were "partially responsible for the loss" of Torres'
life, she and the city of Madera have filed suit against Taser
International Inc., the manufacturer of the non-lethal weapon.
The lawsuit says Taser is responsible because the company's training
procedures do not adequately teach police officers the difference
the Taser and their own handguns. The company, the suit says, "provided
related training and representations in such a manner so as to cause any
reasonable police officer to mistakenly draw and fire a handgun instead
of the Taser device."
Got that? "Any reasonable police officer" could pull the wrong gun and
kill a suspect they merely mean to stun! Considering the thousands of
police officers in the USA, and how long Tasers have been on the market
-- coupled with the dubious "fact" that "any reasonable police officer"
is likely "to mistakenly draw and fire a handgun instead of the Taser
device" -- there must be hundreds of cases of just that happening,
Wrong. In their research, Madera's lawyers found just two previous
cases of such mistakes, though both times the unfortunate victims
survived. "Once we found the two other incidents, we made [a] change" in
Madera police procedure, advising officers not to carry their Taser on
the same side of their belts as their handguns, says the city's lawyer.
(Remember! The gun on left to stun, the one on the right to kill. Got
The suit says Taser was "aware" its training methods were flawed, and
had "a duty" to inform police departments of the risk that a trained
professional might grab the wrong gun. The suit asks that Taser pay
whatever amount the Torres family wins from their wrongful death
Cops have incredibly stressful, important jobs. To get that job done
they're given astounding powers, up to and including killing citizens
are threatening others. With those powers come similarly awesome
responsibilities, such as carefully preserving suspects' rights and
knowing when -- and how -- to use the various weapons at their disposal.
For Madera and officer Noriega to stand up in public to say "any
reasonable police officer" doesn't know the difference between a non-
lethal weapon and a handgun is an insult to every professional peace
officer -- and an abdication of the responsibility that has been placed
on them. Torres was likely not a choirboy, but his death is a tragic
accident, and shouldn't be treated as an opportunity for the city to try
to pin the blame on an equipment supplier.
1) "Madera Sues Taser Maker", The Fresno Bee, 29 July 2003
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Great, now we have to worry about police shooting us and they can claim they only meant to stun us with a taser.
Reply to
Yeah! Sad and all that. But if you aren't kicking the shit out the cops window you don't have alot to worry about.
Bob Swinney
Reply to
Bob Swinney
Hmm. Bet he won't do that again.
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Reply to
jim rozen
Yeah the cops there are cutting down on first time repeat offenders. Ken
Reply to
Ken Vale
You might think you have nothing to worry about ..
Last year (or earlier this year) in Maryland, a FBI agent shoot a passenger in a car that they just pulled over. The passenger was reaching down to his side "as if he was going for a gun". What he was really doing was releasing his seat belt, and getting out of the car per the direction of another FBI agent.
The FBI was looking for a bank robbery that had been in the area. The description was a man and woman in a red car. The guy shoot was guilty of NOTHING.
IMHO, officer Marcy Noriega should never be aloud to carry a gun again. That should be the price she pays. The FBI agent in the Maryland case had questionable "shooting" in his past, though not as questionable as the one above.
Bob Sw> Yeah! Sad and all that. But if you aren't kicking the shit out the cops
Reply to
Vince Iorio
IIRC Road and Track magazine printed a report of something similar taking place about 20 years back.
A guy is cruising along at a pretty good pace in his Delta 88 and a State trooper jumps out from behind a billboard with a radar gun leveled. The guy dove under the dash and ran the "gunman" over. The judge thought his actions were reasonable, given the circumstances.
So said the article, anyway.
Cheers Trevor Jones
Reply to
Trevor Jones

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