The officer stopped to question Jones who was stopped along the side of the road. She denied drinking but the officers removed her from the car and questioned her for 15 minutes. That seems a reasonable response since they had to be sure that she was not a DUI case. It was then that they asked her to give them her purse. She refused and said “I just don’t feel like I want you to take my purse from me.” She ran back to her car and the officer then tasered her. One officer deployed his TASER® X-26 TM three times. Jones can be heard screaming in pain as the officer yelled at her not to move . . . while tasering her. She then stopped breathing.
One officer was able to revive her with CPR on the sidewalk.
There was no illegal drug or alcohol levels in Jones’ system. Nevertheless, police charged her with resisting arrest and possession of less than one ounce of pot. It is not clear what she was being arrested for at the time. We have previously seen cases where alleged abusive police conduct results in questionable charges against a victim — an incentive to settle the claims against the police and a rationalization of the alleged abuse. In this case, I am curious as to why a driver cannot refuse to hand over her bag. If they were arresting her, they can search the car and the purse at incident to the arrest or as part of the custodial exception at booking. They would not have to ask permission.
Then there is the controversial use of the tasers, including shooting people in the chest (which the manufacturer warns against). Police too often use tasers where they would previously physically restrain a person. The speed with which tasers are deployed in many cases has drawn widespread criticism. There is a growing view that tasers are becoming the instant response of many officers to any resistance or problem.
When Jones runs back into the car, I do think that there was legitimate concern by the officers that she might be grabbing a weapon. It is certainly an uncommon response even when arguing over a search. That makes this routine traffic stop less routine in the end. However, the need to use the taser — particularly three times — remains a question. My greatest concern is the criminal charge since I fail to see the basis for the arrest before the tasering.
What do you think?