Over the weekend, a Sacramento man joined the growing tally of people who have died after police attempted to subdue them with Tasers.
While the manufacturer denies Tasers can be fatal, debates churn over whether the stun guns are being used in the way they were intended – as an alternative to lethal force – and whether police policies reflect the most recent scientific conclusions on the weapons' safety.
Because Paul Martinez Jr. was handcuffed and likely high on methamphetamine, his family and their lawyer question whether deploying the Taser might have been excessive.
"The way he died I don't like," said Martinez's grandmother, Natalia Martinez. "I know my grandson was bad. I know he was into drugs. But they already had him handcuffed and in the jail. Why did they have to kill him?"
Tasers were introduced in 1998, marketed as an alternative to guns, to temporarily disable a suspect until he could be apprehended or restrained. But an increasing number of incidents involve using a Taser on suspects already in police custody.
Three inmates in the Stanislaus County jail died this year after corrections officers used Tasers to subdue them. Merced police used a Taser in September on a legless man in a wheelchair during a domestic violence call.
Taser International, the Arizona company that manufactures Tasers, rigorously defends its products.
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