September 6, 2010

Taser Autopsy: Coroner Says Phyllis Owens Died From 50,000-volt Jolt

I suppose that 100% of the deaths in America can be classified as 'heart stopped ticking'. Dr. Larry Lewman, Oregon State medical examiner, says that 87-year old Phyllis Owens died of "chronic heart disease" after he completed her autopsy.

Of course, Dr. Lewman, clarified a little when he added that the manner of death for the octogenarian, who had a pacemaker since 2007, was receiving a 50,000-volt jolt from a Taser fired by a Clackamas County sheriff's deputy. [SOURCE]

"The cause of her death is hypertensive cardio-vascular disease," Lewman said. "But it occurred because of the electric stun gun, which probably intercepted a pacemaker wire."
The two deputies involved in this taser-killing are Steve Shelly and Alan Alderman. Both were placed on administrative leave after the July 8 homicide.

Owens was shot with a Taser after about 15 minutes of negotiations, during which Owens was waving a pellet gun replica of a firearm.

At one point, deputies convinced Owens to put down the pellet gun, which she laid on her porch railing. But when Deputy Alderman advanced toward her, she reached for the pellet gun again.

The other deputy, Steve Shelly, believing Owens was reaching for a handgun, electrocuted her with a Taser. Owens died shortly afterwards.

I guess I need to see a photo of a "pellet gun replica" to understand how trained police officers can't tell the difference between it and a real gun.

Also, I have to wonder what the rush was for these officers. They killed Mrs. Owens after talking with her for 15 minutes? Was their coffee getting cold in the police car? She was contained on the front porch of her own home. These two 'Barney Fife' deputies couldn't wait and talk longer with her ... giving her a chance to calm down?

Anyhow, the next step in this process belongs to the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office. They are reviewing the case to determine if criminal charges will be brought against either of the two police officers.


Gunfighter said...

Keith, your judgement of these officers is every bit as unfair sas you suggest that the officers were.

In many cases, pellet guns or other types of "guns" are designed to look like the real thing. I think that the officvers used considerable restraint in not shooting the deceased immediately when confronted.

I think that it is reasonable that in an instance where the officers talked their suspect into putting the gun down, that they responded at LEAST with a Taser when she picked up her gun again while the officers attempted to approach her.

It is a shame that this woman had to die, simply because of her own ability to NOT PICK UP A GUN WHEN ARMED OFFICERS WERE APPROACHING HER. I mean, that isn't really the smartest thing that she could have done.

Of course, I would lie to se what the pellet gun looked like, but you should know that there are firearms manufacturers in this country that make some rather strange looking guns that you would never know were "real" until you had lead coming your way.

Chris M said...

While I generally agree that tasers ought to be removed from LEO use, I disagree with this blog post.

Until we see reason to believe otherwise, we must assume that the replica gun is a convincing replica and that the officers where acting in good faith.

This is a lethal force encounter, in my opinion. Someone claiming that a gun-looking device is a toy does not make it a toy.

Having tasers out was an act of generosity. I'd have had my gun drawn, and also assumed that I was facing a gun.

It sounds like Mrs. Owens was not in a normal or sane mental state. This is very unfortunate, and her death is heartbreaking.

It is entirely possible that she didn't take the tasers as seriously as she would have a gun, because so many (incorrectly) think of tasers as non-lethal.

No matter how you look at it, the Officers should have had guns drawn.

Villager said...

Gunfighter and Chris - Is there a time limit involved in bringing a situation like this under control? Couldn't the police have backed down to allow the old lady a chance to calm down without killing her?