July 8, 2008

Charlotte Says 'No Problem' to Officer Jerry Dawson for Taser-Kill of Unarmed Black Teenager

Charlotte Observer reports that Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Marsha Goodenow said Monday Officer Jerry Dawson Jr. was justified in using the Taser on Darryl Turner during a confrontation at a Food Lion earlier this year in Charlotte. The prosecutor said a video camera at the grocery captured the incident between Turner and the police officer. The video shows the teen throwing items at the store manager, then moving toward the officer, she said.

It's clear he's advancing on the officer,” Goodenow told the Observer. “The officer was justified in using the Taser – which he had been trained was non-deadly force – to control the situation. Unfortunately, it had very tragic results.”

Goodenow said the 17-year old Turner was shocked more than once. Yet the prosecutor claims, "The officer used the appropriate force."

A Taser is a weapon that uses compressed nitrogen to shoot two tethered needle-like probes that deliver an electronic shock. It's designed to temporarily subdue a person, although one study found that the improper use of Tasers has contributed to the death of at least 11 people in North Carolina over the past four years.

Turner's autopsy shows that he died from cardiac arrest. Family attorney Ken Harris said he's still reviewing evidence collected from Food Lion and police. However, he was quick to note that Turner had no intoxicants in his body and that the Taser specifically played a role in his death – a fact rarely mentioned in Taser-related deaths across the country, Harris said.

Co-workers, including a supervisor, said Turner was a reliable employee who had never been reprimanded at work. They said he had some disagreements with the customer service manager, who had asked him to tuck in his shirt and complained about Turner wearing gold teeth and big earrings.

Goodenow said Monday that when Turner returned to the grocery after lunch, a supervisor told him to remove the sucker from his mouth and tuck in his shirt. The teenager began cursing, the prosecutor said. The supervisor, a white woman, called the store manager to report what was happening. She said Turner was cursing and angry, and told the manager she felt threatened and was going to call police.

After the manager arrived, Turner began taunting him to get him to fight, Goodenow said. He threw a plastic counter-top display at the manager, she said, then picked up an umbrella and threw that at the manager. Then he advanced on the manager who was behind the customer service desk.

Goodenow said a witness recalled the police officer, who had witnessed at least part of the confrontation with the manager, yelling: “Freeze. Don't move. Stay where you are.” Turner then began walking toward the officer, who had already pulled his Taser. When Turner was a few feet from Dawson, the officer fired the Taser.

Goodenow said Turner's body stiffened after being shocked, but the teen kept walking. When Turner got to the front of the store he tossed a metal grocery bag holder, she said. It's unclear when the officer fired again or how long the shock lasted.

He gave the officer a look like he was going to break him in half…,” the manager told police. “I don't know what was bothering him, but he was not himself. The officer told him he needed to stop. And that's the last warning you're going to get. And he just kept on going.”

Villagers, my view remains the same as before. Turner didn't have a weapon. He was just an angry teenager. I suspect that the Food Lion supervisor, Food Lion manager and Officer Jerry Dawson simply over-reacted to the situation because of their pre-conceived fear of 'the angry black man'. They saw a monster and they killed him. I see a 17-year old high school graduate working hard and planning for a future that was snuffed out by taser-happy cop. Personally, I hope that a civil suit puts a big hole in the taser budget of the Charlotte police department.
What say u?


blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey there Villager,

This story is very disturbing on many levels... the white woman stating that she felt "threatened" by a 17-year old boy who got huffy when he had to take a sucker out of his mouth?? She felt PHYSICALLY IN DANGER over that?

Then... the manager allowed the supervisor to call the police on the employee... if an employee is disruptive the usual response would be (when dealing with hourly workers) is to immediately end the employee's shift and direct that employee to leave the premises and return the next day for a formal write up.

If the employee refuses to end his/her shift and refuses to leave the premises THEN the police is called in. It seems that these union procedures were NOT followed...

This is very sad that a youngster lost his life being a hothead and being in a clearly racially-charged work environment...if a black man had been the supervisor (instead of a white woman who initiated all this), this entire episode would have transpired differently....that is for sure...

{shaking my head}

Villager said...

Lisa - Sometimes folks tell me not to see race-based motives in actions. However, your analysis is on point. I sincerely think that this issue was allowed to escalate without any rational thinking as a result of racially motivated behavior and action.

Truly a shame that a young 17-year old lost his life to this type of nonsense...

RB said...


Great Article:)

Just to shed some light on the situation, I live in Charlotte, NC and that kind of one-sided verdict (as it relates to how Black Folk are slammed by the Law) in this city is COMMON!

Charlotte-Mecklenburg is and has been for years and years an Extremely Racially divided Region.

You guys don't know the half of it!

Sadly most of the Black citizens (Black Leaders included) have just sat idly by and allowed the White Leadership to railroad us as it relates to Education, Business and Equality in the Judicial system.

Case in point last December Charlotte's First African-American Sheriff (ever) was elected. (Nick Mackey)

The guy did NOTHING unusual to get elected.

Long story short, the Mayor and the County Officials did NOT stop until they influenced the State's Democratic Review Board to overturn his election.

Thus the position was once again given to a Caucasian person.

The local newspaper (C.Observer) said that the African-American Sheriff-Elect Candidate (Nick Mackey) wasn't "qualified".

Not only that the same newspaper publicly "lynched" the guy in the Media.

This dude had 14 years experience as a Charlotte Police Officer, a Bachelors's Degree, Two Masters Degrees and.... He was a Licensed Attorney!

He was more than Qualified!

But.... He was from the "Wrong" Ethnic group if you know what I mean.

Its a good thing Mr. Mackey is highly motivated because he is now running for Senate.

In fact during the North Carolina Primary on May 6, he beat out a Caucasian Incumbent with more than 6 years experience.

I could go and on but that's why it is so important that we get out and VOTE this November.

There's strength in numbers and sometimes the only way to create change is to vote the crooked folk out of Office.

Just to sum it up when it comes to positive Racial Relations, Charlotte, NC has a LONG way to go.

Once again great article!

Villager said...

RB - I've only visited Charlotte and my memories of the place are good. However, I know how things can look great from the outside and be much more complex on the inside. Thank you for sharing some insights into the situation with race relations. Please keep us informed if you hear anything new on this Darryl Turner case...

Anonymous said...

Tasers are considered less-lethal, or "intermediate" weapons. The reason for which is that Tasers, like batons and OC (pepper) spray are not likely to cause death or serious physical injury.

The application of the Taser in this incident is perfectly reasonable in light of Supreme Court case laws that governs the use of force by police (see Graham v. Connor).

Please note that I didn't say it was "right", I said "reasonable"... cops aren't required to be right all of the time, particularly while in the midst of a fight, or a potentially violent encounter.

Please Join me tonight at Blog Talk Radio for the Modernwarrior show, where my topic will be police use of force. The call in number is posted at my blog.



Villager said...

Gunfighter - I'm sorry that I didn't see your comment until today. I think I missed the show if it was last night.

Anyhow, I appreciate your feedback. I respect that the policeman in this case did what he thought was right. However, even if everybody did their job right ... something needs to change. After all, the end result is that a 17-year old boy without any weapon is now dead. Why? For being angry?

Jennifer said...

Only in black America can a young man throw objects at a woman, dare a manger to call the cops (which he did), advance towards an officer and be held up as some victim. "No weapon?" You don't call a metal bag holder, an umbrella and and a counter top display hurled through midair weapons?

I know that everyone involved was probably white, and God knows I'm not saying that he deserved to be Tasered. But had my mother been on the receiving end of that umbrella throw, I would've wanted him to be Tasered twice.

Villager said...

Jennifer - Our issue is not that he needs to be punished. Our issue is that the punishment should not be death at the hands of a taser-happy police officer...