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Man dies after Taser shot
Union Twp. fatality first in area after weapon's use

The London Enquirer | May 14, 2005
By Sheila McLaughlin and Jane Prendergast

UNION TWP . - A 31-year-old man died about an hour after an officer with Clermont County's Union Township Police shot him with a Taser gun Friday.

Authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine how Vernon A. Young died.

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While Young is the first person in Greater Cincinnati to die shortly after being shot with the 50,000-volt weapon, he is among a growing number of people nationally who have died after being shot with a Taser.

His death comes amid mounting concern about the safety of the weapon and increased calls for further study into the effects of the weapon.

Taser International, of Scottsdale, Ariz., has maintained the weapon is safe and markets it as a less-than-lethal alternative to firearms.

Company officials say that underlying medical conditions have caused the death of suspects shot with a Taser, not the electrical jolt it administers.

In Friday's incident, police shot Young after a string of violent events at the Maple Grove Apartments, at 895 Ohio Pike, where he lived, said police Lt. Mark Griffith.

Police said Young had been hearing voices before he fired a gun into his closet, ransacked the building manager's apartment and threatened her with a knife.

Locked in her bathroom, the manager called 911 at 8:39 a.m.

Officer Greg Jasper confronted Young inside the apartment and ordered him to the floor while he waited for help. Jasper, a 12-year veteran, fired the Taser when Young started to get up, Griffith said.

There were several knives on the floor near Young, he said.

In the background of the 911 call, officers can be heard telling Young to stay on the ground after he'd been hit with the Taser's electrified barbs. Firefighters took Young to Mercy Hospital Anderson, where he was pronounced dead at 9:45 a.m.

Young did not appear to be suffering any ill effects from the Taser when he was loaded into an ambulance, Griffith said. The hospital medical check is routine for suspects shot with a Taser.

Investigators did not know Friday if Young had any problems with drugs or suffered from a mental illness or a medical problem, said Detective Sgt. Scott Gaviglia.

"I believe it's going to be a combination of things," he said. "He had fired that gun at imaginary people in his closet."

Griffith said witnesses told police Young's behavior was erratic. Young was "agitated as if he was on drugs or having an emotional breakdown," Griffith said.

Young's autopsy was conducted Friday by the Hamilton County Coroner's Office. Gaviglia said he expects a preliminary report, which will include toxicology test results, in about a week.

Authorities found a pistol and seven shell casings in the apartment Young shared with his girlfriend. They're tracing the gun to try to find out where it came from, because as a convicted felon, he wasn't supposed to have one.

Young spent about eight months in prison in 1999 for domestic violence, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. He also spent about 20 months in the Warren Correctional Institution for robbery and assault before being paroled in September 2004.

Union Township police bought additional Tasers after police shot to death a suicidal man they said lunged at them with a knife in November. They are among nearly 7,000 of the country's 16,000 law enforcement agenciesthat have the weapons.

News of Young's death reached Amnesty International - the human rights group that maintains a running list of people who die after being shocked with Tasers - by mid-afternoon. Amnesty continues to call for comprehensive, independent medical studies of effects of Tasers on people with heart conditions, children and the elderly as well as people in the throes of drug intoxication.

The agency says that since 1999, 103 people have died after being shocked with Tasers.

"We're emphasizing now that the real life-saving value of Tasers will never be actualized if people don't start answering the questions that we've put on the table," said Edward Jackson, Amensty's media director.

At the same time Friday, Taser officials highlighted a new study by a San Diego emergency room doctor that found no significant changes in heart rhythms in 24 people who'd been shot with Tasers.

Jasper was put on three days' administrative leave, as was Officer Dominick Minella, a five-year veteran also at the scene. The Clermont County Prosecutor will review the case, which is standard.

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