Federal Jury: Police Officers Did Not Use Excessive Force After Tasering Man 19 Times Leading To His Death

180px-m26_taserA federal jury in Tennessee ruled that three officers — Jason Creagan, Jonathan Mays and Jaime Scruggs — did not use excessive force in the death of Patrick Lee, 21, at a nightclub in 2005. Lee was tasered 19 times after he was seen acting strangely outside of a nightclub (ironically named the the Mercy Lounge) and allegedly resisted arrest.

Lee was high on LSD and naked at the time. He died two days later. Police said that Lee was sweaty, making it difficult to control him. They used batons and pepper spray as well. A video was viewed as supporting the family’s claim that the police acted improperly. At the time the video was discovered Nashville attorney Tommy Overton stated “[f]rom looking at the video for the first time, it looks more like a social event than trying to arrest somebody who was naked and unarmed. I look forward to allowing a jury of everyday citizens of this district to see what I consider is a disregard for human life.” More <a href="“>here. It does not appear that the jury was affected in the same way (a grand jury earlier rejected criminal charges, though some grand jurors expressed objections to the conduct of the police).

Lawsuits against Taser International by his parents, Bud Lee and Cindy Lundman, were dismissed earlier. For country music fans, Bud Lee co-wrote the Garth Brooks hit “Friends in Low Places.”

The Nashville case had some similarity to the case of Mace Hutchinson who was tasered 19 times and the Oliver case in Miami.

A coroner ruled that Lee was experiencing drug-induced excited delirium.

For the full story, click here and here.

62 thoughts on “Federal Jury: Police Officers Did Not Use Excessive Force After Tasering Man 19 Times Leading To His Death”

  1. Mike S.,

    I almost forgot. Thanks for your input on that AIPAC article. That was kind of my read on the situation as well although I personally think Bibi left to his own devices would run roughshod over any peace process that requires reasonable behavior like setting up a much needed Palestinian state. The Israeli peace movement must be finally getting more traction than in the past to reduce him to what must be rhetorical attacks in the face of that assessment.

  2. Mike S.,

    Yep. I’ve had more than one discussion with the cops about me not being servile. They work for us and need to be reminded of that far too often. In addition to the venue, management, training issues, might I add that if one factors in the base psychology of people attracted the militaristic aspects of modern law enforcement (often ex-military or wannabes) and you’ve got a perfect storm for jackbooted thugs.

  3. To me the issue is that many of today’s LEO’s become enraged when they are not immediately obeyed. They are trained to assertively take charge of every situation and have no patience for anyone who doesn’t respond in a servile manner. I don’t think this is general for all US LEO’s. My guess it has a lot to do with venue, management and/or training.

  4. In law enforcement, there is a term for Officer Hogue’s initial action; some call what he did Tombstone Courage…I call it unprofessional stupidity. You never stop a vehicle at night–nor the middle of the road, thereby jeopardizing other innocent citizens–without first calling-in the basic information.

    Many people, high on drugs or not, including first time offenders, will resist arrest with they realize that they are about to be arrested and all of the demeaning aspects that will follow the loss of their freedom. Officer Hogue could have mitigated the entire chain of events and he was partially culpable for the escalation of violence.

    Don’t you just enjoy the video narrator’s hyperbole and the dramatic accompanying music; not biased at all, is it? Again, I have zero tolerance for illegal drugs and users high on them—no, not body cavity searches of school children for suspicion of *those* type of drugs—although we all have equal rights under due processes of law and some of this confrontation could have been prevented. I see an officer who made several basic, stupid mistakes while others see a cop fighting for his life.

    This video should be a lesson of required viewing for other LEOs entitled, ‘How *Not* to Made a Vehicle Stop at Night and Allowing a Potential Felony Arrest Escalate into Tombstone Courage or a Lawsuit’

  5. mespo, FFLEO, raff,

    You’re mixing apples on oranges on factual scenarios. LSD, while it can result in strange behavior, rarely results in the kind of psychotic and violent behavior that PCP does.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/19/angel-vidal-mendoza-accus_n_205442.html

    Add that account to the thousands of others about PCP users killing and maiming. PCP must be madness in a bottle.

    That being said, any escalation requires exhausting the non-violent alternatives when one is properly trained as a PEACE OFFICER. We’ve had the discussion before about the difference between peace officers and police as well as the rise of militarism within domestic law enforcement. I’m going to have to fall down on the side of bad training and hiring practices. The weapon in itself is not the issue. It’s the people using them. FFLEO & Raff are both right. Those clowns should have let Lee run himself out and if that didn’t work, there are plenty of ways to restrain a person that require no machines at all.

  6. Mespo/FFLEO&Raf:

    It is a tossup between the 2 sides. Although I tend to think letting the guy run is a good idea.

    But then I am neither lawyer nor LEO.

  7. Dear Rose Colored, I remember kids in seventh grade who would have thought your joke funny. Of course, there were also the kids who thought lighting farts was hilarious. And come to think of it, they were all heterosexuals.

  8. What goes into office half white and half black but turns red?

    Answer: Barack Obama

  9. Joy:

    And lest you think all it takes is a little gentle persuasion to stop a guy on PCP, here’s an account of a guy in Delaware who was shot, tasered, pepper sprayed and still fought off two troopers:

    “But when the trooper got out of his car to aid the man, Silvestre allegedly lunged at him and began beating the trooper, who attempted to back away in the rear of Alpha Pizza at 1402 E. Newport Pike (Del. 4).

    The trooper yelled at the suspect to stop while Silvestre continued swinging at the officer, Whitmarsh said.

    The trooper tried unsuccessfully to subdue Silvestre with pepper spray, who by this time had grabbed the officer’s radio and started beating the trooper with it, Whitmarsh said.

    Silvestre allegedly backed the trooper against a brick wall when the officer pulled his gun and fired twice, hitting him once in the upper shoulder.

    Even when shot, Silvestre continued to fight with the officer, Whitmarsh said.

    By this time, a second officer arrived and used his stun gun, but Silvestre was unfazed and continued his attack.

    A third officer arrived and deployed his stun gun, and the officers were able to subdue Silvestre and take him into custody.

    A passer-by saw the events unfold and confirmed what happened, Whitmarsh said.”

  10. Former Fed,
    It is amazing how a little common sense can prevent bigger and more dangerous situations from happening.

  11. Joy:

    “Nobody should have been tasered 19 times. I don’t care how ‘high’ he seemed. Was the federal jury composed of all right-to-lifers that believe in protecting fetuses only, and not born mortals?”

    **************

    Given your blanket prohibition, tell me how you would handle this situation with a suspect high on PCP and in a life or death struggle with the officer:

  12. Nobody should have been tasered 19 times. I don’t care how ‘high’ he seemed. Was the federal jury composed of all right-to-lifers that believe in protecting fetuses only, and not born mortals?

  13. Well, if it makes anyone feel any better… though it probably shouldn’t…

    A jury in Canton Ohio just awarded the family of a man who died after being beaten, pepper-sprayed, and then tasered $2.075 million.

    http://tinyurl.com/oopxhe

  14. I neglected to mention; it is not the Taser nor the firearm or any other weapon that is at fault; it is the human wielding the weapon.

  15. Don’t even bother to make it look good dept: I am sitting here watching Olbermann’s show which I had taped earlier and during the commercial (I mostly listen rather than watch so the commercial’s just play on) I lifted my head and caught the last few seconds of a comercial for some TV ‘catch a predator’ show. The alleged sick-a++ pervert is running through a yard with cops in pursuit and stops and puts his hands up and, you guessed it, then he is tazered. Really, pick the sick-a** pervert out of this picture – it’s harder than one might imagine.

    Yes, I fully expect my society and its paid workers to be better than my first, base, instincts and desires.

    Just ranting- the footage (in a commercial!) hit a nerve, my last one I guess.

  16. But Former fed, if the police had let the man run himself out they would have looked like wimps. I suspect that for many police, a suspect who fails to be controlled constitutes an unbearable insult.

  17. rafflaw, I saw your comment about letting the young man run himself out and I also mentioned that before I read your comment. Good old-fashioned commonsense at play.

  18. Okay, thanks to CCD I saw the limited video but more importantly I saw 2 overweight and out of shape officers out of 3 who could not foot race an average person. Furthermore, there was little reason to pursue this kid running sans clothing and a few calls from other officers could have subdued the subject after he “ran” himself down. A person in this type of drugged state is much more harm to himself than physically harming others.

    I think that after reading the narrative and viewing the brief video, the officers used excessive force. The problem with 2 or more officers with Tasers or batons is that unthinking unfit officers get caught up in the ‘group frenzy’ of the moment and react instead of thinking. Each officer feeds off the actions of the most aggressive officer (s). Any reasonable trained officer with commonsense must have that 19 Taser shots was excessive.

    Disclaimer: I was never involved with such an intense situation as this; however, I have known too many unqualified LEOs that should have never been given a firearm/weapon and the power to legally take another human’s life. The culture of; us the “good” guys against them the “scum bags” is prevalent in law enforcement and sets the stage for over-reacting and escalating the use of force.

  19. Why not let him run himself out? I understand what the facts showed, but 19 times for a taser sounds excessive to me. If he wasn’t harming anyone, why did 3 officers need to taser him beyond the recommended times suggested by the manufacturer?

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