Police Must Stop Using Tasers

Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke calls for an investigation into police taser use.

The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner recently issued a landmark ruling: Israel "Reefa" Hernandez, who was shot with a Miami Beach Police Taser last August, died of heart failure because of an "electric device discharge." It was the first time in Florida that a medical examiner had made such a finding, and it prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to demand that local police departments revamp how they train cops to use stun guns.

This all came after three other men died after being Tasered by police.

Last month, Willie Sams, a 21-year-old from northwest Georgia who was visiting his grandmother in Liberty City, was electrocuted by police responding to a domestic dispute. Around the same time, cops Tasered 37-year-old Maykel Antonio Barrera after he tried to fight his way out of custody. The same day, Hialeah officers answering a call that Treon Johnson was beating dogs with a pipe shocked the 27-year-old Miami Gardens man into submission.

Last year, 18-year-old Hernandez led Miami Beach officers on a foot chase after he was caught tagging a wall with graffiti. One of the cops, Jorge Mercado, zapped Hernandez in the chest. The teen collapsed and later died at Mount Sinai Hospital. His death sparked protests, but his family and friends are still waiting for justice to be meted out against Mercado.

None of these incidents warranted using a Taser because the suspects were unarmed and there were more than two cops on the scene to subdue them. And cops shouldn't be aiming stun guns at people's hearts anyway. Even Taser International, the stun gun maker, warned officers in 2009 to steer clear of shooting at the chest because of the risk of cardiac arrest.

Local police departments should stop using Tasers before cops end up killing another unarmed young man. Right now, we don't know if the manufacturer or the police are at fault.

Until we can hold police or Taser International accountable, officers must holster their stun guns.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1 and @unclelukesempir

Tune into Luke on the Andy Slater Show every Tuesday, 2 to 5 p.m., on Miami's Sports Animal, 940 AM.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

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