Fatal Tasering Wasn't Justified, Court Rules
(CN) - The 11th Circuit rebuked Orlando officers for Tasering an unarmed man eight to 12 times in two minutes, causing his death. Judge Stanley Marcus said the repeated shocks were "grossly disproportionate to any threat posed and unreasonable under the circumstances."
According to an eye witness, Anthony Carl Oliver Sr. flagged down officer Lori Fiorino from a grassy median. She allegedly pulled out her Taser gun and asked him what was wrong. "They're shooting at me," he told her, and pointed across the street.
Fiorino tried to calm him down, and later said he had been "very fidgety."
The witness said Oliver wasn't belligerent and didn't threaten or curse at the officer.
Fiorino called for backup, and she and responding officer David Burk considered taking Oliver in for a psychiatric evaluation, because they thought he might be mentally unstable.
When Burk tried to get Oliver to cross the street, Oliver "struggled and pulled away from him," according to the ruling.
Without warning, Fiorino Tasered him in the stomach, bringing him to the ground. Once the five-second pulse wore off, she Tasered him again. The witness said Oliver never got up after the first Tasering, and never hit, punched, kicked or threatened the officers.
Oliver, who was lying on the hot asphalt, allegedly screamed that it was "too hot." Fioriono said she may have Tasered Oliver 11 or 12 times, explaining that she kept pulling the trigger until he stayed on the ground. Her Taser log showed eight times in two minutes, with each shock lasting five seconds.
After officers handcuffed Oliver, he began foaming at the mouth, according to Fiorino. She said she was unable to remove all the Taser prongs from his body.
Paramedics put him on a stretcher and loaded him into an ambulance, where he began to have a seizure. He was pronounced dead at Florida Hospital, a result of "being struck by a Taser," according to a forensic pathologist.
Amy Shirley Oliver filed suit on behalf of Oliver's estate, claiming the officers' use of excessive force had killed him.
Fiorino and Burk asked the district court to dismiss the case on the basis of qualified immunity, but the district court refused.
The Atlanta-based appeals court affirmed.
"The justification for the repeated use of Taser force, at least beyond an initial Taser shock, was minimal," Judge Marcus wrote.
Oliver was not accused or suspected of any crime, posed no immediate threat to officers or others, did not act belligerently, was not trying to flee, and was "largely compliant and cooperative with officers," Marcus noted.
"We agreed with the district court's determination that the force employed was so utterly disproportionate to the level of force reasonably necessary that any reasonable officer would have recognized that his actions were unlawful," the court concluded.