(TMU) – As public outrage continues over killings by law enforcement officers across the United States, misuse of force and lethal acts carried out by police are increasingly leading to the prosecution of officers previously granted impunity by the criminal justice system.
And now, two police officers in Oklahoma are facing potentially long periods in jail after being charged with second-degree murder in connection with their shocking use of Tasers over 50 times on a man who died in their custody.
Captain Joshua Taylor, 25, and Officer Brandon Dingman, 34, of the Wilson Police Department face accusations that their shocking overuse of the stun guns on 28-year-old Jared Lakey last summer directly led to his death.
The officers had initially told arriving medics that they only used the less-lethal devices on Lakey “four times,” according to court documents from a civil lawsuit filed this year by Lakey’s family, reports The Frontier.
The incident occurred in Wilson, which lies 100 miles south of Oklahoma City near the border with Texas, on July 4, 2019, following a call that Lakey was “acting in a disorderly way,” according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
When Lakey allegedly failed to comply with police commands, Taylor and Dingman began hitting him with their stun guns a combined total of over 50 times, “which greatly exceeded what would have been necessary or warranted by the attendant circumstances,” according to court records.
While officers told medics that Lakey was under the influence of drugs while he was reportedly “running down the street,” Lakey family attorneys say that a toxicology report showed there were no drugs in his system when the altercation occurred.
After Lakey was subjected to what amounted to torture using the electricity-powered devices, a deputy sheriff from Carter County arrived and helped take him into custody, during which time the unnamed deputy choked Lakey from behind. Shortly afterwards, Lakey stopped breathing and was unresponsive. He died in an Oklahoma City hospital on July 6, 2019.
Court records state that “such dangerous and unnecessary tasing” was a “substantial factor” in the eventual demise of Lakey.
On Wednesday, the district attorney’s office issued arrest warrants for the two officers, who turned themselves in the next day. If found guilty of the crime of second-degree murder, the two could face 10 years to life in prison.
Both have since been released on $250,000 bonds, according to state authorities.
Attorneys representing Lakey’s parents say that both officers made a string of false claims in their accounts of the incident that led to Lakey’s death. While Capt. Taylor alleges that Lakey was naked and agitated, the family disputes the claim. Taylor also reported only holding Lakey at “TASER point” during the altercation, but police radio logs show that he fired the taser within a few minutes of encountering Lakey.
Attorneys also accuse the officers of erasing the footage from their body-worn cameras to prevent it from entering the court file.
At no point was Lakey accused of a crime and he also didn’t resist arrest, attorneys claim.
“I have never seen a more disturbing video,” attorney Spencer Bryan, who is representing Lakey’s family, told New York Times. “After watching it, I cannot understand how the city allowed officers who exhibited such gross recklessness, resulting in a man’s death, to continue working. We have great confidence the evidence supports the charges.”
The use of Tasers has come under fresh scrutiny since the killing of Rayshard Brooks by now-former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, who faces charges of murder and aggravated for the shooting death of Brooks.
Tasers or stun guns are part of a class of so-called “less lethal” tools used by law enforcement personnel to temporarily immobilize them by jolting them with a sharp, painful electric shock. Taser manufacturer Axon Enterprise claims that the Taser saves lives and prevents injuries.
However, at least 500 people have died between 2001 and 2012 after being shocked with tasers during arrest or while incarcerated, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
And according to a 2012 study by the journal Circulation, electric shocks delivered to the chest by a Taser can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death. The study was based on an analysis of records of eight people who went into cardiac arrest after being struck by a Taser X26 from a distance. Seven of the people in the study died while only one survived.
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