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Taser-related death reignites debate

A man’s death across the street from the University of Miami has added fuel to the heated debate over the use of Tasers.

Xavier Jones, a 29-year-old father of one, was Tasered early Friday morning by Coral Gables police after resisting arrest. Jones was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at Doctor’s Hospital.

Senior Ryan Dougherty, who witnessed the incident while waiting for friends, said that Jones was acting erratic, as if he were on drugs. It was Dougherty’s friend who called 911 at the request of the security guard.

“[Jones] ran into the middle of U.S. 1, throwing himself all over the place and yelling crazy things like ‘God forgive me,'” Dougherty said, also noting that he thinks the situation could have been handled better. He explained that the police arrived with their weapons drawn.

Although Tasers are referred to as “non-lethal” devices, Jones’ death is one of more than 160 Taser-related fatalities since 2001, according to Amnesty International.

Amnesty International has called for an independent, rigorous testing of the devices that deliver 50,000 volts of shock. The organization suggests that the use of Tasers be suspended pending an investigation into their effects and use.

Because UM police follow CGPD policy, officers on campus wear Tasers as well.

“I’ve seen Tasers save lives many, many times,” Police Chief David Rivero said. “If a subject is armed with a knife and comes at cop, the subject would mostly likely be shot if a cop did not have a Taser.”

Autopsy results will be available later in the week. Miami-Dade homicide detectives are investigating the situation, and the Gables officer involved is on paid administrative leave.

Pat Cunnane may be contacted at p.cunnane@umiami.edu.

Previous Florida Tasings

A 6-year-old boy was Tased by a Miami-Dade policeman in 2004 after threatening to injure himself with a shard of glass
A 12-year-old girl was Tased by a Miami-Dade policeman in 2004 after fleeing from the cop when she was caught skipping school
Andrew Meyer, a University of Florida senior, was Tased in 2007 while attending a guest lecture by former presidential candidate John Kerry

-Compiled by Karyn Meshbane

January 17, 2008

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