Police defend use of Taser on girl, 13
Florida Times-Union | March 3, 2005
Jacksonville police are defending the decision to use a stun gun on a 13-year-old girl at least twice and perhaps more because she wouldn't follow orders, but the state attorney said the incident raises "serious concerns."
The 65-pound girl was in the back of a patrol car Feb. 7 when she was jolted by a 50,000-volt Taser being used in stun-gun mode, according to a Sheriff's Office report. A Taser typically fires two barbs into a target through which electricity is focused, but in stun-gun mode direct contact is made with the target.
This was two weeks before Sheriff John Rutherford announced a moratorium on Taser use by police.
Police were called to the girl's Collins Road apartment because she was fighting with her mother.
The girl, Llahsmin Lynn Kallead, was handcuffed and placed into a patrol car but managed to slide her cuffed arms to the front of her. Police said she refused to put her arms behind her and started kicking the inside of the cruiser.
That's when she was zapped. Police said there were two jolts, but Kallead said Tuesday she counted five times and showed a reporter five marks on her back and legs she said were caused by the stun gun.
"I saw her jump from one side of the police car to the other" from the shock, her mother, Rosie Vaughan, said Tuesday. "She shook."
The teen said it felt like multiple jolts of static electricity.
"It was like a bunch of them on my back," she said.
Rutherford was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Undersheriff Frank Mackesy said the Sheriff's Office is reviewing the case but defended using the devices. He said the technique used on the girl was vastly different from the common shooting of barbs into a victim.
"It's a localized application that doesn't seize the body up," he said. "It only hurts the area where you put it."
A State Attorney's Office investigator has contacted the family.
"I have serious concerns and have discussed this with the sheriff," State Attorney Harry Shorstein said Tuesday.
Misdemeanor domestic battery charges against Kallead were dropped 10 days after she was arrested and taken to a juvenile detention facility overnight. The charges had been dismissed when the girl and her mother returned for a court appearance Feb. 17.
Kallead, who is 4-foot-8, was fighting with her mother when police were called. Vaughan told officers they were arguing about the girl being late, and an older daughter called police.
"I said she had kicked me a couple of times and I had held her down," Vaughan said.
Vaughan told police her daughter was taking medication for emotional disorders and had been hospitalized for observation in the recent past.
She said she feared her daughter would run away or harm herself and hoped police could get her medical help. Instead, she said, police handcuffed the girl and put her in the car.
After Kallead slipped the cuffs to the front, police said they told her to put her arms behind her back but she became combative. One officer use a hold on her jaw and twisted her arm in a move designed to subdue a person but wrote in the report, "I feared further force on the suspect's arm would cause her harm, [due to her small size] so I disengaged the suspect."
That's when Officer G.A. Nelson used the Taser, according to the report.
Mackesy said he called for an internal police investigation the same week that the incident happened. It is not yet complete, he said.
"The reason I did that is because of the age and size of the suspect," he said. "Just because she was small does not mean she was frail."
The Sheriff's Office suspended the use of Tasers Feb. 22 following public pressure about their use. The department spent $1.8 million for 1,800 of the devices and began widespread deployment before the Super Bowl Feb. 6.
Rutherford, who took a full jolt from a Taser in January to demonstrate his faith in their safety, also planned to equip school resource officers with the weapons.
The Sheriff's Office has suspended their use until a more detailed policy and training program are created.