July 15, 2006 in City

Past Taser use recorded

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The Spokane police officers who used their stun guns three times in a fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm on March 18 have used their Tasers 10 other times since 2003, police records show.

Karl Thompson, the first officer on the scene, knocked Zehm to the floor and Tasered the mentally ill janitor less than 30 seconds after arriving at the north Spokane Zip Trip, a store surveillance video released Thursday shows.

Thompson also struck Zehm six times with his baton while Zehm was sprawled on the floor, the videotape shows.

The second officer to arrive, Steven Braun Jr., used his “touch stun” Taser on Zehm twice during the 30-minute melee, according to Deputy Chief Al Odenthal.

Thompson has been involved in seven other confrontations over the past three years in which he deployed his Taser, Spokane Police Department Use of Force reports show. Braun has had three similar incidents during the same period.

The use of Tasers is automatically recorded on a software program; a printout of the time the weapon is used is attached to each Use of Force report.

The suspects’ names and other identifying material have been blacked out in the internal police reports, obtained by The Spokesman-Review from the Center for Justice.

In one incident on Nov. 20, 2003, Thompson used his stun gun on a suicidal woman who was handcuffed and lying on the ground on her stomach. When she began kicking, Thompson applied a touch stun with his M26 Taser to her stomach and stunned her a second time in the lower torso, the report said.

“She stopped struggling and said, ‘God, that hurt,’ ” according to the police report. The woman was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

In other incidents, Thompson Tasered a 300-pound woman who didn’t want police to arrest a drunken man at her house; an ex-convict wanted on a warrant who swallowed meth during the encounter; a teenager threatening the staff of an undisclosed facility while holding a telephone; a man assaulting a woman; a car thief fleeing on foot; and a man armed with a knife who’d threatened to kill people at the Otis Hotel on March 19, 2005.

Braun’s incidents include a confrontation in 2003 with a drunken domestic violence suspect who was Tasered twice; the stunning of a disorderly woman who urinated outside a bar in January 2004; and a domestic violence arrest of a mentally unstable man who was stunned in the back of the neck.

Police spokesman Cpl. Tom Lee did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment on the officers’ use of their Tasers.

In all the incidents, police supervisors ruled the use of the Tasers was “in compliance with the policy/procedures of the Spokane Police Department.”

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