This is pretty much as bad as it gets. It’s like a scene from a dystopian novel, as bio-hazard suit clad officers take a schizophrenic woman, one who they have already handcuffed, and tase her to death, killing her as she screams in horror.
A mentally ill woman who died after a stun gun was used on her at the Fairfax County jail in February was restrained with handcuffs behind her back, leg shackles and a mask when a sheriff’s deputy shocked her four times, incident reports obtained by The Washington Post show.
Natasha McKenna initially cooperated with deputies, placed her hands through her cell door food slot and agreed to be handcuffed, the reports show. But McKenna, whose deteriorating mental state had caused Fairfax to seek help for her, then began trying to fight her way out of the cuffs, repeatedly screaming, “You promised you wouldn’t hurt me!” the reports show.
Then, six members of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team, dressed in white full-body biohazard suits and gas masks, arrived and placed a wildly struggling 130-pound McKenna into full restraints, their reports state. But when McKenna wouldn’t bend her knees so she could be placed into a wheeled restraint chair, a lieutenant delivered four 50,000-volt shocks from the Taser, enabling the other deputies to strap her into the chair, the reports show.
And here’s the defense:
Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid declined to comment on the case but defended the use of a stun gun on a restrained prisoner, saying it was “a means that is often useful to ensure the safety of a person” rather than using physical force to gain compliance. She said stun guns were used “occasionally” on prisoners who are already restrained.
I know there are cases in which this is true. However, I’d like to know how often these officers try de-escalation and patience before tasing restrained prisoners into compliance. My guess – almost never.
And experts agree.
Numerous experts said the use of a stun gun on a fully restrained prisoner was an unreasonable use of force, particularly in a jail setting where a person is unlikely to flee. They also said Tasers are not recommended for use on the mentally ill, that even the Taser manufacturer warns against using them on people in a state of “excited delirium,” and that using a stun gun more than three times is thought to be above the threshold for use on a single person.
The piece continues to describe a very troubling series of events that, undoubtedly, presented the officers with many difficult choices. They made the wrong ones.
And here’s the meta story – we need a mental heath system that does not place people like McKenna in prisons.