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Tasered to Death as Parents Watch

AUSTIN (CN) - A Fort Worth police officer Tasered a "mentally challenged young man" with 50,000 volts for 54 seconds, killing him "in front of his home with his parents watching," and the Medical Examiner's office called it a homicide, the parents claim in Travis County Court. They sued Taser International and GT Distributors - but not the police - on their own behalf, and for their two young grandchildren.

Michael and Charlotte Jacobs say their son, Michael Jr., had "a history of mental illness." On April 18, 2009, they say, his "medication had become unregulated. Michael was behaving erratically and in need of medical assistance."

They say they called the Fort Worth Police, "as they had done on previous occasions for help in transporting Michael to the hospital so that his medication could be regulated."

They say three officers responded, and that though their child "was unarmed and did not strike or attack any of the officers," one of them shot him in the neck and chest with her X26 model Taser, which "delivered 50,000 volts or incapacitating electrical charge into him."

The complaint continues: "The officer inadvertently held the trigger down on the Taser, which resulted in the incapacitating charge being streamed into his chest for a continuous 49 seconds. Despite the reasonable foreseeability that a person discharging the device in a stressful situation might hold the trigger down, the Taser device contained no mechanical or programmed safety feature to prevent the extended shocking of the target. Officer [Stephanie] Phillips then pulled the trigger again causing another 5 seconds stream of electric shock to be delivered to Michael's body. At the end of 54 seconds of being shocked in the chest by 50,000 volts of electricity, Michael was unresponsive and died. His horrific electrocution occurred in front of his home with his parents watching. An autopsy by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office, performed pursuant to law, determined the cause of Michael Jr.'s death to be a homicide 'due to by [sic] the application of a conducted energy device.'"

Taser designed it and made it and GT Distributors sold it to the police.

The officer shot the man in the neck and chest, according to the complaint. Tasers fire two darts, and the incapacitating charge flows from one to the other.

The complaint adds: "On Sept. 30, 2009, some 5 months after the tragic death of Michael Patrick Jacobs Jr., Taser International finally issued a warning that users of the Taser ECD devices should avoid shots to the chest in order to 'greatly reduce any concern for the induction of ventricular arrhythmias' despite the fact that Taser International was on notice of such risk for a substantial period of time prior to the death of Michael Patrick Jacobs Jr., and the issuance of the warning."

The family seeks punitive damages for product liability, negligence, gross negligence, misrepresentation, loss of consortium and mental anguish.

Their lead counsel is Kern Lewis with Foreman, Lewis & Hutchison of Grapevine.

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