Courts & Crime

Tasers injure state troopers learning how to use them

Three South Carolina Highway Patrol officers have been hurt in Taser training incidents this year.

One of the three is still not on the job and drawing workers' compensation for injuries, said Department of Public Safety director Mark Keel.

Those three injuries — out of some 300 troopers trained during that time — contrast markedly with reported Taser training injuries at the Richland and Lexington sheriff's departments and the Columbia Police Department. And they exceed the Taser company's own estimates of how frequently law enforcement officers are hurt nationally during training.

Richland has Taser-trained 535 deputies, Lexington has trained 235 deputies and corrections officers, and the city of Columbia has trained 142 officers — all without injuries, spokesmen for the three departments said.

During roughly eight hours of Taser training, each officer gets Tased to learn what the 7-ounce, black and yellow gun used to subdue suspects can do.

"It is the most pain I ever felt in my life, from my head to my toes and everything — and I mean everything — in between," said Richland Sheriff Leon Lott, who wanted to see what he was asking his deputies to do.

"I felt like my muscles were going to explode," Lott said.

Tasers shoot out two electrically charged miniature fishhooks attached to wires that travel 200 feet per second. The hooks impale themselves in flesh or clothing, penetrating all but the thickest clothes. Both hooks have to attach themselves to flesh or clothes before a charge can be delivered through the lines.

Shooters normally fire 5-second bursts but can control the duration of the shock. They may fire more than once.

The muscles of a Tased person contract. Losing control of his muscles, he falls to the ground and stays immobilized long enough to be handcuffed.

Law enforcement agencies like to say that the Taser is an alternative to a baton or tear gas for subduing a suspect. But, effectively, a Taser is an alternative to a gun when it prevents a situation from spiraling out of control.

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