Officer in South Dakota Acquitted After Tazing Man On The Ground 28 Times

UnknownA former police officer who may have tazed a man as many as 28 times has been acquitted by a federal jury to the surprise of many who have followed the case of former Oglala Sioux Tribe police officer Rebecca Sotherland. Sutherland, 33, is shown below tazing Jefferson Eagle Bull, 32, who had reportedly drunk of gallon of vodka and passed out in Manderson, South Dakota. Manderson is on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southern South Dakota. Sotherland faced three criminal charges including “deprivation of constitutional rights, assault with a dangerous weapon and obstruction of a federal investigation by filing a false report.

The video was shot on August 15, 2014 when Sotherland found Eagle Bull lying on the ground too drunk to stand. Four hours after drinking the vodka, Eagle still had a blood alcohol level of 0.319. She was fired after the videotape was posted.

Sotherland was fired shortly after the incident, according to KOTA-TV. Indian Country Today Media Network reported “she is not a tribal member and grew up in Hot Springs,” two hours north of Manderson, which is on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southern South Dakota.

The trial took three days. The defense insisted that Eagle Bull was “playing possum” and not really unresponsive. The defense insisted that Sotherland ordered Eagle Bull to get up or get in the car more than 280 times. Sutherland also testified that she had encountered Eagle Bull before and that he would pretend to be unresponsive. She said that he recognized her as she approached and closed his eyes. However, his blood alcohol level supported the prosecution’s view that he was passed out. This was a response to a simple “welfare call.” More importantly, even if he was responsive, it is unclear why hitting someone dozens of times with a taser is the appropriate response.

In the 26 minutes of the video, the prosecution counted 28 Taser jolts, 18 of them drive stuns. A “drive stun” involved placing the taser against the body for the stun.

At one point, she got him to his feet but he returned to the hole. She then used pepper spray.

During the examination, the prosecutor asked why she did not try to see if he was in need of medical assistance:

Koliner: “You didn’t know, maybe he was dead”

Sutherland: “Sometimes, they are.”

Kaoline: “You didn’t even go check on him. Is that reasonable to you?”

Sotherland: “I don’t know what to say.”

Kaoline: “Jefferson Eagle Bull didn’t present a threat to you that day.”

Sotherland went on to testify that she did not help him because he was a threat because there were “weapons lying all over” the area in the form of sticks, boards and metal pipes. Yet she continued to taze him after he was handcuffed and took 18 minutes to call for backup.

Motherland’s conduct seems to me clearly excessive and captures the long concern that officer treat the tazer as a tool of first resort instead of weapon to be used solely for their own protection in extreme situations.

What do you think?

39 thoughts on “Officer in South Dakota Acquitted After Tazing Man On The Ground 28 Times”

  1. The article says: assault with a dangerous weapon. I hope they refer to the taser and not something else she used. A taser is a dangerous and lethal weapon. Tase your mom if you do not agree.

  2. Two words: “Banana Republic.” And, “We tazed some folks.” “Land of the brave, home of the tazed.”

  3. That BAC could have been going either up or down by the time it was taken. With that much alcohol in him, he is probably numb to pain.

  4. The 6 men/6 women jury found 33-year-old Rebecca Sotherland, of Hot Springs, not guilty on all three charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon.

    Attorneys for Sotherland successfully drove home their defense to the jury that she had been improperly trained and that Taser was used to get Eagle Bull to comply with her demands that he stand up.
    They stated that Eagle Bull was not complying with her demands in an attempt to avoid being arrested.

    Former Bureau of Indian Affairs National Director and the first Native American ever to hold the position of Regional Director of the United States Marshals Service, Robert Ecoffey,
    says that the verdict was absolutely a miscarriage of justice.

    Community members of Eagle Bull’s from Manderson have quickly turned to social media to express their outrage over the verdict.

  5. issacbasonkavichi, a Judge does not have the legal authority to to anything to her given the jury’s verdict of “not guilty.” Why blame him (or her)?

  6. I have same thoughts as stevegroen. I also don’t trust juries as they are so easily manipulated. The time to discover the nut cases is not after someone is injured or killed by government workers.

  7. Don’t tase me Bro!

    From wikipedia:

    The head of the U.S. southern regional office of Amnesty International, Jared Feuer, claimed that 277 people in the United States have died after being shocked by a Taser between June 2001 and October 2007, which has already been documented. He also claimed that about 80% of those on whom a Taser was used by U.S. police were unarmed. “Tasers interfere with a basic equation, which is that force must always be proportional to the threat,” Feuer said. “They are being used in a situation where a firearm or even a baton would never be justified.”[30] A spokesperson for Taser International asserted that if a person dies from a “tasering” it is instantaneous and not days later.[31] Taser International announced that it is “transmitting over 60 legal demand letters requiring correction of… false and misleading headlines.”[32]

    The Guardian newspaper was running a database,The Counted, in 2015, tracking US killings by police and other law enforcement agencies that year. As of 6 November 2015, 47 deaths of the 965 killed were classified as taser events.[33]

  8. The verdict doesn’t make much sense unless there’s more to the story. Something tells me this was perhaps a case of a fellow (the victim) who was not well-liked in the community and another example of why jury nullification is reasonable only theoretically and not as applied. Or, the prosecuting US Attorney was looking for a particular verdict to protect his or her future LEO witness availability.


  9. A taser is a lethal weapon. There needs to be discussion on the blog about this specific fact. There are many deaths caused by this weapon. Call a spade a spade. The cop ought to be tased. Her mother needs to be tased in her presence.
    One never knows when the person in front of them has a heart condition unless one is a doctor who has treated the person. A heart condition makes one open for a heart attack when tased.

  10. KCF, I never heard of the Milgram experiment. I just looked it up and will read more. Thanks. Having worked in a prison, I am familiar w/ the Stanford experiment.

  11. Darren nailed it. However, if you want to see real poverty and depravity and not want to be in danger in places like the south side of Chicago, go to an Indian reservation. It is depressing as hell. Indians are some of my favorite people. Their bodies inability to metabolize alcohol is their cross to bear.

  12. She should be in a cell for at least ten years with the cell next door occupied by the judge that let her off. Disgusting is the only word for this.

  13. Question(s): Was she aquitted of all charges or just the major one(s)? Is she entitled to receiving her job back if she was aquitted of all charges? Can she get her job back and/or sue for lost wages?

  14. Rebecca is not qualified to deal with intoxicated service calls.

    Tribal Cops on Pine Ridge arrest an intoxicated baby sitter. No Taser needed.
    Tribal Cops have many service duty calls concerning tribal members who violate consumption laws, where alcohol is illegal. This arrest went smooth on Pine Ridge.

  15. Rebecca Sotherland should never be a law enforcement officer again as in my view she is unsuited to be such. A person exercising this degree of malfeasance cannot be retrained into becoming a rational police officer.

    A .319 BAC level is extremely high, rarely seen in-fact. It is obvious this man needed an ambulance and the number of Taser hits reported is unconscionable. I could go through how badly she misapplied numerous use of force procedures, but doing so would be a waste of time since it is obvious what she did was wrong in so many ways.

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