Police Tase and Kill 16-Year-Old Boy After He Runs From Traffic Stop

art.mugThere is another controversy over police tasers leading to a death. Robert Mitchell, 16, died after being hit with a 50,000 volt taser shock after he ran from a traffic stop and allegedly resisted arrest. Mitchell had a learning disability and according to his family was merely scared.

Mitchell was killed on April 10th. His cousin, Chris Davis, was pulled over over an expired license plate when Mitchell ran into an abandoned house a couple blocks away. The police have cleared the officers and said that it was an appropriate use of the taser.

His family is pursuing a lawsuit against the police department.

We have seen a slew of such injurious or fatal uses of tasers recently, here and here and here.

For the full story, click here and here.

47 thoughts on “Police Tase and Kill 16-Year-Old Boy After He Runs From Traffic Stop

  1. Why do you need to tase someone who is running away? That seems like absolutely not a threat to the officers.

  2. I wonder how many people will die or be tased unnecessarily before we can get some changes. It’s as though law enforcement has been provided a serious tool to use without rules and too often with no logic or common sense.

  3. Thats a good idea. Take the taser away and then what recourse do police officers have besides their weapon. The bottom line is dont break the law and you wont get tased.

  4. Chris:
    Mitchell was ‘special ed’, and according to his cousin ‘terrified’
    (the article I read) when the police pulled them over. What recourse do police dept.’s have, how about more training. That’s the best tool they’ll ever have. IMHO

  5. maybe his parents should have taught him that the police are good and not to be scared by them….also why didn’t his cousin get his plates renewed? Maybe his mother should have paid more attention to who her son was with.

  6. Does the name Malice Green bring any thoughts to mind? The mind set of the Police in Detroit? Black kid Detroit? Humm, damn straight I’d run.

  7. It is apparent that police training re: taser use is totally deficient and that clearly they are being overused. In general police are now trained to move quickly against any perceived resistance to authority. I have been with NYC PO’s many times on pickups of psychotic individuals of all racial backgrounds.
    Generally I’ve found that many on the NYPD get it and tried to deal as humanely as they could. I’m not sure that is true for other venues, or whether it is still true in NY since I retired five years ago.

  8. Dawne and Chris,
    Do you really think it is as simple as “don’t break the law” and have you no compassion for those who are grievously harmed when a minority of police act irresponsibly? If you don’t then I would suggest a closer inspection of your own consciences to discover if they are there.

  9. Mike,
    My finance and I were robbed at gun point less than a month ago in our own home and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. So forgive me if my sympathy is absent. How do you know what was going through the head of this police officer?

  10. We have something similar to this in the California Dept. of Corrections where the state is thinking about removing a less than lethal weapon which shoots blocks at inmates when they refuse to stop fighting. A few inmates have been killed because of their refusal to stop fighting which has put other inmates and COs in danger and now the weapon is at risk to be removed from the institutions. Im curious to know what the state will do when inmates start getting shot by the mini 14 because the COs no longer have the block gun.

  11. How would the police know that he was unarmed? Should they let anyone run from them? If so, criminals will never be caught. Tasers have saved many more lives than they have taken. Without these devices, officers will be much more likely to use their guns, and this will certainly lead to more shootings. Expecting police officers to engage in dangerous hand to hand combat with fleeing people is asking too much of an already hazardous profession.

  12. Mike Spindell

    “It is apparent that police training re: taser use is totally deficient and that clearly they are being overused. In general police are now trained to move quickly against any perceived resistance to authority. I have been with NYC PO’s many times on pickups of psychotic individuals of all racial backgrounds.
    Generally I’ve found that many on the NYPD get it and tried to deal as humanely as they could. I’m not sure that is true for other venues, or whether it is still true in NY since I retired five years ago.”

    Why didnt you volunteer to “deal humanly” with these psychotic individuals? Lets be truthful. You hid behind the police and criticized them, while they did your dangerous work.

  13. I think some people here have a fundamental misunderstanding on when the use of force is justified. People will continue to die (unnecessarily) from tazers until the establishment finally acknowledges that they are deadly force and should only be used in situations warranting the use of deadly force.

  14. “Why didnt you volunteer to “deal humanly” with these psychotic individuals? Lets be truthful. You hid behind the police and criticized them, while they did your dangerous work.”

    DirtPimp,
    Actually I was the one in front of the police and a good part of the reason I complemented them was that they were smart enough to let me do the work. By the way I’m not talking about one incident, but perhaps somewhere over twenty. Also too while I’m at it, I worked directly with the police for many years not only with psychiatric patients but also supervising a unit that took only the worst cases of child abuse. We always got along very well, I liked them and they liked me. Often enough to go out for drinks together. I also worked for many years in the most dangerous neighborhoods of NYC, at all hours, alone and weaponless. Many were places where police wouldn’t go into alone and they had guns, so your assumptions are way out of line. However, what is to be expected from someone who could choose any screen name he wants and chooses: DirtPimp? That I think says it all.

  15. “My finance and I were robbed at gun point less than a month ago in our own home and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. So forgive me if my sympathy is absent.”

    Chris,
    I feel sympathy for you and your fiance having to go through such a terrible experience. It must have been quite frightening, humiliating and filled you with great anger. If it was me I would have felt that. I have been in similar circumstances in my life and to be honest with you I might have personally killed the perpetrator if I could have. However, one thing is not related to the other and we pay our Police to enforce the law, as they obey the law. Nobody is drafted into being a policeman and part of their job is to behave lawfully and with respect for everyone’s rights. This is important for us as citizens because no matter the color of our skin, or how lofty a position we hold, we too can become victims of that small percentage of Police who don’t properly uphold their oaths of office.

  16. While Amnesty International fabricates comments, at least they didn’t say that Taser has killed over 350 people in the US. John King did. While some have died AFTER being hit by the Taser, none have died because of it. Note that three quarter of a million people have been subjected to Taser in training and by volunteering. ZERO have died. If Taser were even a contributary cause, one would expect some small number of deaths in this massive control group.

  17. Mike,
    Thank you for the kind words. My point is that the guy was breaking the law. Where in the article does it say the taser wasn’t used correctly? If the cop had gone into the house and walked around a corner and got shot, you probably never would have heard about it. We ask law enforcement to do a very difficult job in which they are forced to make split second decisions which effect not only their own lives but the lives of those around them. It’s a lot easier to sit here and ridicule the man a month after it happens, then it is to actually make those decisions. The young man ran from the police which would give anyone reason to believe he was desperate.

  18. If the guy is running and not presenting an immediate threat to anyone other than odd behavior, this warrants the use of a tazer? Knowing full well that tazers kill people from time to time, the use of the tazer must be considered to be deadly force. Even if you don’t consider it deadly force, you don’t just bring force into any equation just because someone is running or not obeying commands. Force should only be used in response to force (or in response to the threat of force). I’m not even going to bother making a deeper argument because I’m pretty sure I’m just wasting my time on people who think that all people the cops pull over deserve to die. I’ve seen many many people run from the cops. Guess how many were actually dangerous and had a weapon of any kind? 0. Maybe we should just taze them first, ask questions later, and hope that they don’t have a heart problem or underlying health issue that makes the tazer kill them though, right?

  19. There’s a reason they call tazers and related weapons “less lethal” instead of “non-lethal”. They are excellent additions to the law enforcement arsenal, but they are not safe. They are merely more safe. Law enforcement personnel need to be trained that they are NOT a pain compliance tool, and the legal system needs to hold police to that standard.

    “Note that three quarter of a million people have been subjected to Taser in training and by volunteering. ZERO have died.”

    First of all,people in sufficient physical shape to serve in law enforcement or related occupations are given limited shocks in controlled conditions. This is versus the general population in various conditions of health, often given multiple to a dozen shocks in uncontrolled conditions…clearly, you are not used to science.

    Even so, Samuel Powers broke his spine due to a taser in training. So there’s that, too.

  20. If the police in Detroit are chasing me I would run also. Especially if I was a black teenager. How many people have to die because of the use of the taser before some people realize that it is being used too often and even when unnecessary? Chris,
    I am sorry about your scary incident with the robber. My daughter lives in Chicago and her apartment just got robbed for the second time in about a year and a half. It is scary and unsettling even if you are not there when the robbery is taking place.

  21. John A:

    Just because something is safe in one circumstance doesn’t mean it’s safe in a different circumstance.

    Firstly it’s been shown that one of the effects of a taser is to raise the heartbeat, by an average of 15 bpm, causing high blood pressure. If you are in a controlled situation and relatively calm, then this is probably going to be harmless. However if you are hyperexcited and your heartrate is already elevated, then this extra stimulation can be enough to cause a cardiac arrest or a stroke. This has been shown in animal testing.

    Secondly, in training & other similar circumstances there is always one shock. In real circumstances we’ve seen officers shock repeatedly. We really don’t know what this will do, it’s clear that this means that real usages are different to training.

  22. Chris,
    It will get better in time. Hang in there.
    Alex, Thanks for the tutorial on the effects of tasers on the excited heart. These dangerous weapons are being misused and need to be curtailed.

  23. Tasers offer police the perfect weapon: plausible deniability. Their variability in performance let’s them hide behind probability outcomes to achieve a “no lose” outcome and indulge their callous laziness. Why interact with potential perps when you can just zap ’em? If they die in the process it’s no loss for them.

  24. Lets peel back the scab for a moment and look at the root cause.When confronted by official color of authority, obey their commands and ride it out.For some to say their lives would have been threatened over a traffic stop for expired plates I say, give me a break. Its that mentality, minority or not, that perpetuates the problem.Society always finds a way to reduce indiviual’s responsibility and blame it on the boogey man of law enforcement .To those who say, let them run away, as in this case, do you really know what that message would send.Hopefully the guy that would have just robbed, assaulted or worse, one of your family memebers wouldn’t run when he was about to be apprehended when he was pulled over in a car with expired plates leaving the scene.If this is what you REALLY want from law enforcement then I say give the people what they want and what they deserve.But of course you don’t, when one of you or yours are victimized you want the police to resort to gestapo tactics, cicil rights be damned. But that is what the police expect from the communities they serve,and MOST do their jobs in a more than admirable way,everyday for less than admirable pay.As for the TASER, this has probably proven to be one of the most effective tools that PREVENTS injury to both police and suspects alike.It allows another step in the force continum that precedes levels of force that are sure to produce injury. Even with the unfortunate incidents resulting in fatalities it is STILL LESS LETHAL FORCE.Ok enough of the sop box.

  25. “When confronted by official color of authority, obey their commands and ride it out.For some to say their lives would have been threatened over a traffic stop for expired plates I say, give me a break. Its that mentality, minority or not, that perpetuates the problem.Society always finds a way to reduce indiviual’s responsibility and blame it on the boogey man of law enforcement”

    bottom line,
    “Obey their commands?” Since when do LEO’s have the right to “command” people?

    “when one of you or yours are victimized you want the police to resort to gestapo tactics, cicil rights be damned.”

    I don’t know anyone that would want that, though I’m sure you do. Don’t you realize that we are supposed to be a country governed by laws and not by the whims of those we pay to protect the peace?

    “But that is what the police expect from the communities they serve,and MOST do their jobs in a more than admirable way,everyday for less than admirable pay.”

    This is not about what the Police expect from the communities they serve, this is about what the communities they serve and the law they live under expects from them. you make it sound like it is the Gestapo talking and that is scary, if you knew anything about what the Gestapo was like.

    Now as for most doing admirable jobs there are two posts above where I say just that. So this isn’t about police bashing for me. It is about the law and it is about LEO’s doing the right thing. Now I don’t know what is is like in other places as far as police pay goes, but in New York City, they were paid rather well and they were paid even better in the suburban counties. In Suffolk County, on Long Island, police officers made over $90,000 per year after 3 years service.

    By the way it is a tough job and at times can be dangerous, but a person chooses to become a LEO, no one makes them, so the bitching about not being appreciated is beginning to wear thin. The police are generally portrayed very well in our media, see all the TV cop shows, etc., and yet keep thinking of themselves as being under appreciated. When I think of lack of appreciation I think of our Armed Forces who really are paid badly and really are poorly treated.

  26. @Bottom Line:

    What’s the point of having civil rights if your not expected to enforce them? Civil rights are laws too. And a group of people with a badge and a gun are breaking them daily.

  27. “But Mike, the armed forces are all volunteer as well.”

    Chris,
    That is my point exactly but I didn’t explain it well. Our armed forces are paid miserably, by today’s standards, all the way up the line. The VA in recent years hasn’t done its’ job in taking care of them when they are no longer on duty. Many come back from service and find themselves with PTSD, no assistance and unable to work or find work. In the last three years the MSM has almost ignored the ongoing and dangerous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly, the MSM has not greatly covered the effects of these military actions on the troops and their families at home. Yet there is minimal “bitching” from the armed forces about this. There are few public statements from the troops or officers “that no one respects us.”

    The LEO’s on the other hand are paid reasonably well. If they are injured in the line of duty they are well taken care of by the system. Many can retire after twenty years with excellent benefits and many do and then work second jobs supplemented by their pensions. In NY State, if a LEO gets a heart attack while working, even if it wasn’t caused directly by work, they can immediately retire at 3/4 pay.

    Probably half the shows on TV deal with the LEO’s and they are positively portrayed in these shows. The court system backs them up, even in ridiculous situations like Rodney King and Amadou Diallo, who was shot 42 times for holding his wallet and had no criminal history. Yet in the media we see constant “bitching” from LEO’s about the lack of respect they get and how unfairly they are treated. It simply is a myth that they’ve bought into and I think I know why.

    People who work a certain government jobs dealing with the public generally tend to see themselves as under appreciated and under paid. This is a tendency of people in groups, with
    “esprit de corps” who do difficult work. They develop an Us
    vs. Them mentality, that goes hand in hand with the feeling
    that “no one understands us” and the hard work we do. The hours are difficult so they tend to socialize with each other which further cements their bond and the feeling of everyone else being outsiders. When the LEO’s refer to everyone else as “civilians” it is done so with contempt and with a feeling of superiority. When one of these “civilians”
    doesn’t immediately obey their “commands” (as dirt pimp put it) it angers them and they want to strike out and show who’s boss.

    I am anything but a LEO “basher” because I’ve know so many and worked with so many, but I understand the mentality because in many of the jobs I worked on, in dangerous areas, often with dangerous people and without weapons, my workers and peers tended to feel the same way, without the ability to “put down” the “civilians” that LEO’s have.

    Call me a crazy liberal but I think we should pay our LEO’s, Fire people, Sanitation Workers, Teachers, etc. better and give them good benefits, commensurate with the society as a whole. However, we should also hold them to high standards of performance and responsibility. As far as our Troops go, how in hell do we justify paying some gun for hire from Haliburton, or Blackwater, $100,000 a year, for working side by side with our Troops? If we respect the Troops so much, as many people claim, why in hell don’t we give them the respect of great salaries and benefits.

    The true answer is in this country we don’t do that because for too many years the politico’s have worked to ensure that the richest among us don’t pay their fair share of taxes and many of our top Corporations don’t pay any taxes. Because of this we tend to “screw over” those who do the most important work for all of us.

  28. Mike,
    Having just got out of the Marine Corps I now all to well about being under appreciated, and under paid. But I also understand how difficult it can be for LEO’s to go to work everyday where they have to make difficult decisions regularly and put their lives on the line to protect us, and those who decide not to put their lives on the line are so quick to make judgments. I will admit that there are a percentage of bad cops, but the problem I have is that many here take these stories that Prof. Turley reports and think that these types of actions are the rule and not the exception. Hardly ever does Prof. Turley report on all the good things that LEO’s do, and I’m not bashing Prof. Turley because I really enjoy this blog, but I think its a little lopsided.

    As far as how much the civilians got paid in Iraq, I don’t think you will ever find someone who served in the armed forces who doesn’t agree with you on that one.

  29. Chris,

    Do you think the good ever get reported? People don’t really want to ever hear about the good that anyone does, because it does not involve them.

    I remember reading an article about a news paper that went out of business because all’s they reported was good news. Humm.

  30. The point I was making is that there are many more good LEO’s than bad. But all it takes is one idiot to make the general opinion of LEO’s go down.

  31. Chris:

    It is a sad commentary on our times that doing your job, being kind, and performing competently doesn’t merit the public’s attention. Maybe it’s so commonplace that we have grown to accept it as the norm and thus it falls outside the “man bites dog” definition of “news.” In the small town I grew up in, the newspaper did mention the good folks who served their community, consistently did their jobs, and built the town. Maybe that’s the best thing about small towns.

  32. Chris,

    I think that if you submit something to La Professor, he might include it. He does read this site quite often. If you send stuff to him it can be done here alls you have to do it submit it with the name Jonathan Turley and it goes into the vacuum, never to be seen again. So if you want others to read it repost it without the professors name.

    But remember the news decides whats newsworthy and news is what sells papers or used to.

  33. “I will admit that there are a percentage of bad cops, but the problem I have is that many here take these stories that Prof. Turley reports and think that these types of actions are the rule and not the exception.”

    Chris,
    Professor Turley reports these stories because as an expert on and defender of Constitutional Law they are relevant for discussion. As far as the vast majority of the good cops getting publicity I think that you have only to watch the top rated TV dramas to see how much good publicity cops get and how the public must love them because they love watching shows about them.

    The other part of this problem and why the bad actions of LEO’s need publicity is that in a lot of cases they get no punishment for breaking the law. If a President of the US can be impeached and dis-barred because he lied about adultery, that a LEO’s who wrongly hurts someone can also pay a penalty.

    Not only do I want to thank you for your service as a marine but I’d like to point out to you something that from those days you know well. Many times it’s the people on the bottom who get the blame and the people who give the orders who get away with it. This is true for the average Cop on the beat, who gets the message from superior officers that brutality is okay and it is true for the lower ranks in the Armed Forces.

    The torture and humiliation at Abu Gharib was blamed on the lower ranks and so far the higher ups who ordered it like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Generals Officers who conveyed their desires to those on the bottom get away with no punishment. I feel the same way for the LEO’s who mostly are average people trying to earn a living and do good, but the system and their superiors give them a different message as to how to behave. You know better than most the penalty for not following orders, even if the particular soldier is behaving correctly.

  34. They had every right to tase him after he was resisting arrest. Not to mention he was also running away from police officers, they had every right tase anyone if someone is resisting arrest or running from them. No offcier should be put at blame they are just doing their job. Don’t run or resist arrest next time.

  35. Chris,
    You are insane if you think you have to be guilty to be tazered. Do you even know what a tazer is? They tazer you when you don’t do exactly what they want you to do, or when you don’t move fast enough or to just show you that they are in charge and can do whatever they want.

    Most deaths occure after the person has been running and has an elevated heart rate.

    I believe all cops involved in a tazering should be drugged tested.

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