Only on 12: Witness to deadly Taser incident says force was excessive

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, July 1, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The GBI is now investigating the death of an Augusta man who was tased by deputies.

George Harvey, 39, died Saturday. His fiancee, Chiffon Pope, says the whole thing started when she picked him up from the Chevron on Gordon Highway.

"We got into an argument. He got out and he flagged the police down for help," she said.

She says he was trying to get the deputy to help diffuse the fight and says Harvey was really upset.

"The police was trying to talk to him and he was like, whatever, and the police was really aggressive with him," she said.

That's when she says the deputy tased him.

"He tased him, he went down to the ground, another cop arrived to the scene. He was straddled on his back and they was putting him in handcuffs, and the other cop continued to tase him. They tased him multiple times," she said.

She says they tased him when he was pinned to the ground and they were handcuffing him. When they were finished, he wasn't moving.

"When they turned him over on his stomach, I looked at him, and I knew he was gone," she said.

Harvey was pronounced dead at the hospital. GBI agents are investigating the death, but they aren't saying how many times he was tased.

Pat Morgan with GBI says, "I can't get into all that. That's going to depend on info we get once the info from the Taser is downloaded."

And the Sheriff's Office isn't releasing much information, either. Their report on the case consists of two sentences and doesn't even mention the Taser.

"We're kind of at a pause right now. We don't and will not get involved while the GBI is looking into it," said Sgt. Shane McDaniel with RCSO.

We dug into Harvey's past, and he has a lengthy criminal history, including at least 14 past arrests in Richmond County. Court records show he's been convicted of multiple crimes, including simple battery, DUI, cocaine trafficking and theft, but his family says that doesn't mean he should have been killed while his 3-year-old and 13-year-old watched.

"It happened in front of our two kids. My son, we passed by the scene last night and he said, 'Daddy.' He remembered the store, and he's only 3 years old," she said.

Jerry Harvey, Harvey's brother, said, "We all have a past, and I don't think his past had anything to do with that night."

Harvey's family says he has no history of heart problems or any real health problems. The Sheriff's Office says the deputy involved in this case is on administrative leave right now while the GBI investigates.

Click here to read Richmond County's Taser policy.

Click here to read the incident report.

Statement from Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications, TASER International:
“Until all the facts surrounding this tragic incident are known, it is inappropriate to jump to conclusions on the cause of death. We believe that TASER® technology protects life and if called upon we are prepared to help the investigation of this unfortunate incident.

Although, no use of force device is risk free including TASER technology, when used properly, medical and law enforcement experts have concluded that TASER technology is among the most effective response to resistance tools available to law enforcement officers to halt potentially violent situations that may pose a safety risk to an officer, suspect or innocent citizens. To date, TASER more than 109,000 lives have been saved from potential death or serious injury using TASER devices.

We continue to stand by the independent peer reviewed medical studies that have shown that the TASER electronic control devices are generally safe and effective.

There is some pertinent information in the attached US DOJ five-year study on TASER ECDs and arrest related deaths:
‘There is no conclusive medical evidence in the current body of research literature that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term CED exposure in healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons. Field experience with CED use indicates that short-term exposure is safe in the vast majority of cases. The risk of death in a CED-related use-of-force incident is less than 0.25 percent, and it is reasonable to conclude that CEDs do not cause or contribute to death in the large majority of those cases.

Law enforcement need not refrain from using CEDs to place uncooperative or combative subjects in custody, provided the devices are used in accordance with accepted national guidelines and appropriate use-of-force policy. The current literature as a whole suggests that deployment of a CED has a margin of safety as great as or greater than most alternatives.’

Statistics:

More than 109,000 people have been saved from potential death or serious injury using TASER® devices.

As of December 31, 2012, TASER International has sold approximately 710,000 TASER® brand electronic control devices (ECDs) in 107 countries to more than 16,800 law enforcement and military agencies.

In addition, approximately 255,000 TASER brand ECDs have been sold to the general public.

Taser uses:

Field Use/Suspect Applications: 1,915,000 ± 2%

Training/Voluntary Applications: 1,351,891 ± 7%

Total: 3.26 million+ Uses"


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