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Sixth death said linked to Taser shocks

The Associated Press

A 2002 Alabama case is the latest tied to the stun weapon by The Arizona Republic after autopsy report reviews.

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – The 2002 death of an Alabama man was linked to an electrical shock from a Taser stun gun fired at him during a confrontation with police, The Arizona Republic reported yesterday.

Clever Craig Jr., 46, died of a heart attack during an episode of delirium “following electrical shock from Taser while resisting arrest,” Alabama regional medical examiner LeRoy Riddick reported in a June 28, 2002, autopsy.

Craig’s death is the sixth to be linked to the stun gun by the newspaper, which has been reviewing autopsy reports from cases in which someone died after a police Taser strike.

It marks the fourth case in which a medical examiner has cited a Taser as a cause or contributing factor in the death of a suspect in police custody.

In two other cases, medical examiners said the stun gun couldn’t be ruled out as a cause of death.

Officials with Scottsdale-based Taser International Inc. said other medical experts who reviewed Craig’s case this week found the Taser played no part in the death.

“We haven’t seen anything that fits electrical death,” said Taser Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith.

The report was more descriptive in nature “than causal,” he said.

The Taser is marketed as an alternative to deadly force and is used by more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies.

Smith has rejected findings in each of the cases linking a Taser to a death, saying medical examiners are generalists who don’t have the expertise to examine fatalities following a shock from a stun gun.

Deaths would have occurred with or without the stun gun, a result of pre-existing health conditions and drug intoxication, he said.

Unlike the other five cases, Craig’s autopsy revealed no traces of opiates, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, amphetamines or cocaine.

Craig, a paranoid schizophrenic, died June 28, 2002, after a struggle with police.

Officers were responding to a call from Craig’s relatives, who said he was acting strangely.

Police found the 6-foot, 200-pound Craig holding a barbell.

Officers ordered him to drop the weight.

He refused, and they shocked him twice in about 40 seconds.

Police said Craig struggled for five minutes after being shocked.

When officers handcuffed him, he was unresponsive.

A Mobile, Ala., grand jury determined two months ago that officers were justified in firing their Tasers.

Craig’s attempts to struggle after being shocked show the stun gun didn’t contribute to his death, said doctors asked to review the case by Taser.

“This is conclusive evidence that he was not in ventricular fibrillation after receiving the Taser discharge,” Wayne McDaniel and Robert Stratbucker wrote in a report Wednesday.

PHOTO CAPTION: Tucson Citizen file photo

The Taser M26 is used by the Tucson Police Department.

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