At least 15 peo­ple have caught fire af­ter Taser stun, com­pany says

Yuma Sun - - NEWS -

OKLAHOMA CITY — The maker of Tasers said Mon­day that at least 15 peo­ple have caught fire, and five have died, af­ter be­ing stunned while near flammable ma­te­ri­als, sim­i­lar to an Oklahoma man who was burned be­yond recog­ni­tion af­ter he was shocked and re­port­edly got into his gaso­line-soaked van.

Axon spokesman Steve Tut­tle said the deaths in­clude the man shocked Nov. 7 by a po­lice of­fi­cer in the town of Lind­sey, about 45 miles (72 kilo­me­ters) south of Oklahoma City, al­though au­thor­i­ties say they are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the man may have lit him­self on fire.

“We’ve seen it hap­pen,” Tut­tle said. “It’s hap­pened about 15 times in 24 years ... out of about 3.5 mil­lion field uses” of the de­vice, known as a con­ducted elec­tri­cal weapon, or CEW.

“It’s a known sit­u­a­tion. Thank­fully it’s been a very rare event,” Tut­tle said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors say the man in Oklahoma who caught fire was armed with a gun and was also car­ry­ing a lighter. An of­fi­cer stunned him with a Taser, but the man man­aged to fight his way back into his van, where he burst into flames. Au­thor­i­ties say they’re still try­ing to de­ter­mine whether the man used his lighter to start the fire or whether the Taser was the cause.

Scotts­dale, Ari­zona-based Axon notes on its web­site that a Taser can cause flammable ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing gaso­line, to catch fire.

“Do not know­ingly use a CEW in the pres­ence of any ex­plo­sive or flammable sub­stance un­less the sit­u­a­tion jus­ti­fies the in­creased risk,” the web­site states.

The names of the man and the of­fi­cers in­volved in the con­fronta­tion have not been re­leased. The dead man’s body was sent to the state med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice for pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and to try to de­ter­mine the cause of the blaze.

McClain County Sher­iff’s Det. David Tomp­kins, who is tak­ing part in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said it ap­pears the of­fi­cer was prob­a­bly jus­ti­fied in us­ing the Taser.

“Right now, I think it will be jus­ti­fied, un­less some­thing else comes up to change my mind,” he said.

Tomp­kins said in­ves­ti­ga­tors don’t yet know whether there is video of the con­fronta­tion be­cause they have not been able to open and view the cam­era that was on the of­fi­cer’s pa­trol ve­hi­cle. He said the dash­cam has been sent to the Oklahoma State Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine whether it was work­ing at the time.

The dead man is be­lieved to be a per­son who was re­ported to po­lice in nearby Norman as pos­si­bly sui­ci­dal. Norman po­lice spokes­woman Sarah Jensen de­clined to re­lease that per­son’s name.

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