Tasering Made Lethal

by Adam Bertrand · June 12, 2008

[Image via fdrest]

As I briefly mentioned yesterday, a young Brooklynite died Monday after a) ingesting 5 grams of cocaine, and b) being tasered twice by the Southampton Police. Deputy Lieutenant Jack Fitzpatrick is confident that it was the former, rather than the latter that did the victim in, and I would be too, except for this little tidbit: 5 men have died after being tasered by the SHPD since 2004 alone. Most of the deaths were blamed on cocaine and alcohol, but one was said to be due to "excited delirium," aka "an overdose of adrenaline."

Here's the thing: excited delirium isn't an officially recognized condition, and its existence is an ongoing source of debate between doctors, civil liberties advocates, law enforcement officers, and medical examiners. In all instances where cause of death was cited as excited delirium, the victims displayed similar behaviors: irrationality, incoherence, and extremely high body temperatures. Whether these are symptoms of excited delirium caused by pre-existing factors or reactions to highly stressful situations has yet to be determined. At any rate, tranquilizers have been found effective at modifying these behaviors without harming their enactor. Perhaps police should be allowed to administer medicine?