Durham case raises questions about police use of Tasers - WNCN: News, Weather

Durham case raises questions about police use of Tasers

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DURHAM, N.C. -

The North Carolina Supreme Court has ordered the Court of Appeals to review a case in which a man claims a Durham police officer used excessive force when police used a Taser on him.

Bryan DeBaun was seriously injured – a photo from the time shows him with blood across his face - after being Tasered on July 24, 2009, by Officer Daniel Kuszaj. DeBaun sued for damages and an injunction against the department's use of Tasers.

According to the police department's "use of force" policy, "Officers of the Durham Police Department shall use only the force necessary to achieve a lawful objective."

The policy also gives guidelines as to when an officer is allowed to use force, including when they are defending themselves or to "to prevent the escape or to effect the arrest of a person who he (an officer) reasonably believes has committed a criminal offense."

DeBaun had been drinking and was carrying a pack of beer when Kuszaj stopped him near the intersection of Calvin and Holloway streets.

"DeBaun's attorney, Alex Charns, said DeBaun asked the officer, "Am I under arrest?"

"When the officer said no, Mr. DeBaun left," Charns said. "Mr. DeBaun was Tasered in the back and  when the Taser deployed, he became paralyzed. He went face first into a concrete sidewalk."

Charns said DeBaun faces $40,000 in medical and reconstructive surgery bills as a result. He said DeBaun was found not guilty of disorderly conduct and being drunk and disruptive. The case has been in and out of court since.

The Court of Appeals will decide whether to overturn a previous decision and allow DeBaun to sue the city and let the case go to trial. DeBaun wants thousands in damages and also wants chances in the department policy allowing the use of Tasers.

"This policy allows officers to seriously injure or kill people who have committed very minor traffic offense," Charns said.

A spokesman for the Durham Police said the department could not comment because it is an ongoing case.

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