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Suspect hit by Taser on 9 occasions; 41-year-old died 4 hours after his arrest at art museum

Toledo Blade | February 2, 2005
By CHRISTINA HALL

Jeffrey Turner stood in the street behind the closed Toledo Museum of Art for nearly 40 minutes before a security guard called police.

Almost four hours after the 41-year-old was approached by police on a suspicious-person call Monday night from the museum, he was dead.

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City police shocked Turner five times with a Taser - a gun that administers 50,000 volts of electricity to subdue a person - after he refused to identify himself and did not comply with police instructions.

Once at the Lucas County jail, Turner, of 2115 Collingwood Blvd., ate a lunch before he began pounding on his cell in the booking area. Sheriff's personnel tried to restrain him, but he fought them and they shocked him four more times with a different Taser model.

TURNER’S ENCOUNTER WITH AUTHORITIES

• Jeffrey Turner was shocked by Toledo police five times with a Taser after they answered a
suspicious-person call.
• Once at the Lucas County jail, Turner ate lunch but became unruly and started to fight. Sheriff’s personnel tried to restrain him and shocked him four times with a Taser.
• Turner was found to be unresponsive by medical personnel and taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where he died.
Minutes later, Turner was unresponsive and taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where he died at 9:40 p.m.

An autopsy performed yesterday was inconclusive as to the cause and manner of his death, said Dr. Cynthia Beisser, deputy county coroner. She said toxicology tests and further investigation will be necessary to establish a cause of death.

A study released last year by Amnesty International found more than 70 Taser-related deaths have occurred in the United States and Canada in the last four years. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently opened an informal inquiry into Taser International's statements about the safety of their devices.

"Until all the facts surrounding this tragic incident in Toledo are known, it is inappropriate to jump to conclusions on the cause of Jeffrey Turner's death," Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for Taser, said in an e-mail statement.

He claimed that medical experts and safety reports from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom "have concluded that Taser devices are among the safest means to subdue violent individuals who could harm law-enforcement officers, innocent citizens, or themselves."

Mr. Tuttle added that injuries to both officers and suspects have declined as a result of the use of Tasers by more than 6,000 law-enforcement agencies nationwide, including 400 in Ohio.

Police were sent to the museum on Monroe Street after receiving a call about 5:30 p.m. from a security guard about a man standing on Grove Place near the museum's rear entrance, said Jordan Rundgren, a museum spokesman.

Toledo police Officers Douglas Lewis and Brian Young reported that they asked Turner for his identification.

When he said he did not have any, they asked him to move to their car so they could conduct a standard pat search for weapons for officer safety. Turner refused, police said.

The officers grabbed Turner's arms and took him to their car, where they told him to put his hands on the trunk.

He refused, pulled away, and swung elbows at both officers, police said.

Despite warnings they were going to shock him with a Taser, the officers reported that Turner continued wrestling and struggling with them.

Turner was shocked five separate times, each a five-second jolt, after he repeatedly refused to comply with police and kicked them, police said.

They finally handcuffed Turner, put on leg restraints, and put him in a paddy wagon.

Police carried the 6-foot, 3-inch, 220-pound man into a holding cell at the jail, where he was booked on misdemeanor charges of loitering, obstructing official business, and resisting arrest.

Sheriff James Telb said Turner calmed down and ate a lunch before again "acting out" by pounding on the cell.

"He had peaks and valleys. His behavior was erratic," Sheriff Telb said.

Sheriff's personnel told Turner to calm down and took his handcuffs off, but put them back on when he again started pounding on the cell.

When jail personnel struggled while trying to restrain him, acting Sgt. Jonathon Leach shocked Turner with a Taser. Turner grabbed at the wires and was shocked again.

Deputy Sheriff Joe Villanueva and Corrections Officer William Ginn, who were struggling with him, came into contact with the wires. They too were shocked, but not hurt.

Sheriff Telb said the struggle continued and the acting sergeant shocked Turner twice more. Authorities were then able to bring him under control and used two sets of handcuffs linked together to cuff him behind his back.

Leg irons were placed on him and he was placed on a bench.

In accordance with department policy after Taser use, a jail nurse was called.

The nurse arrived minutes later and found Turner unresponsive.

Emergency personnel were summoned and he was taken to the hospital.

Sheriff Telb said the incident was "unfortunate" and extended prayers and thoughts to Turner's family, who went to the jail yesterday seeking answers about what happened.

"You're supposed to tame a person without killing him," said his brother, Shawn, who went to the jail with his mother.

He said authorities should have used more personnel and less Taser to restrain his brother, a native Toledoan and Scott High School graduate. Shawn Turner said he was not aware that his brother had any health problems.

Jeffrey Turner, who loved to watch sports and play cards, was divorced, his brother said. In addition to his mother, two brothers, and a sister, he is survived by two children and some stepchildren.

"He was doing fine. I just don't understand this," Shawn Turner said.

Jeffrey Turner served two years in prison from 1986 to 1988 for convictions in Lucas County on receiving stolen property and arson, said JoEllen Lyons, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Since then, his only convictions were for traffic offenses, according to Toledo Municipal Court records.

Preliminary investigations by Toledo police and Lucas County sheriff's investigators indicate that their employees, who remain on the job, followed procedure. Authorities said yesterday that they plan to continue to use Tasers.

Sheriff Telb said his office has used the devices about a dozen times in nearly a year. They are only used by command officers, and he did not recall any previous reported injuries.

Toledo police reported using the Tasers 236 times last year in incidents involving 229 people and seven animals, Chief Mike Navarre said.

He said 165 suspects were not hurt, four claimed injury, and 23 had apparent injuries.

Twenty-seven suspects had injuries prior to being shocked, he said.

Staff writers Jack Baessler and Mark Zaborney contributed to this report.


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