Prince William County police are accused of abuse in the tasering of a grandfather and a mother at a baptismal party in Manassas. The party was being held at the home of Edgar A. Rodriguez, 55, when police responded to a call about loud music. The police say that Rodriguez was drunk and failed to turn down the music after repeated demands by the police. The police ended up tasering Rodriguez and then, when his daughter Leticia Elias, 25, ran to him, police tasered her as well. She is the pregnant mother of the baptized baby.
Police do not allege that Hernandez threatened them. They insist that they tasered him and Elias so that they could “successfully arrest” them.
The authorities are now holding Elias for possible deportation as a suspected illegal immigrant. Elias was charged with assault and battery of a police officer, obstruction of justice and resisting arrest. They charged Rodriguez( Bible study teacher) with resisting arrest and public drunkenness (in his own yard). There is a concern about these charges in light of past cases where police have thrown the book at individuals who might bring abuse charges (here). The facts do not show how Elias was resisting arrest since she was tasered running to her father and Rodriguez was reportedly tasered for failing to comply with orders. Moreover, public drunkenness on your own front yard is a highly questionable charge. We have also seen assault and battery charges brought against individuals for the slightest touching or even flatulence in their presence (here).
Elias is reportedly pregnant and the taserings occurred in front of a party filled with children.
Notably, both the police and family say that the grandfather was tasered three times in rapid succession.
Once again, there is a fear that police are now trained to use tasers too freely — almost as the weapon of first resort. There is a common and growing impression that citizens are being punished for not doing exactly what officers demand by being hit with 50,000 volts. (For a recent video of such a case, click here). There is little interest in Congress or state legislatures to investigate the use of these weapons and their real necessity. At one time, they were viewed as only appropriate for use against violent individuals. Now, they seem to be routine response to a failure to obey a command.
While the facts of the most recent controversy must be fully established, there is reason for concern given the uncontested facts in the police report. Moreover, given the presence of children and the purpose of the event, one would have hoped that police could have resolved the issue without the use of such force — particularly when they were called about a minor concern over loud music.
A tasering at a baptism, however, is not unique. We have seen the use of tasers at events like funerals, here.