Monday, August 18, 2008

Cause of death after taser still unknown

The lawyer for the family of man shocked with a taser by Swissvale police August 5th says the case points out what he thinks is the overuse of the device. Andre Thomas died shortly after police used a taser three times while taking him into custody. The medical examiner has not issued a cause of death pending a toxicology report. Thomas family lawyer Howard Messer says questions of whether Thomas was drunk or on drugs at the time of his death are moot because that would not warrant his “assassination.” However, the family has asked for blood samples and Thomas’s heart do to their own testing. The county has not yet responded to the request. Messer says a preliminary autopsy report from a privately retained pathologist shows numerous scrapes and bruises on Thomas’s body and some witnesses have said police used excessive force. Messer says police may need to rethink how they use tasers. He feels many are using it as a “first choice” rather than a last alternative before using a gun. The family also wants to examine the taser to see if it was functioning properly. Messer says an open inquest may be needed to get to the bottom of the case.

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