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Man Dies After 3 Shocks From Taser

The Tampa Tribune News Channel 8
Published:   |   Updated: May 16, 2013 at 09:50 AM
TAMPA -

A 46-year-old man died Thursday night after being zapped three times with a Taser and bound in handcuffs and leg irons, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

Roney Wilson died after he was transported to South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City, the sheriff's office said. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office is performing an autopsy.

Wilson, who had no known address, was supposed to spend the weekend in Plant City with family but became violent, the sheriff's office said. About 9:30 p.m., a relative called the sheriff's office and said Wilson was not taking his medication and refused to leave a house in the 600 block of Hunter Road.

The caller said Wilson had smashed the windshield of his mother's Nissan pickup with his fist, the sheriff's office said. Wilson's mother used a garden hose to spray water on Wilson to make him leave, relatives told deputies.

"We told them, 'Don't shoot him no more,' and they kept shooting him," Wilson's mother, Annie, said Friday.

"It was excessive," said Roney Wilson's brother, Michael Wilson Sr., 40, of Lakeland. "They killed him in my mom's yard. ... They had his face pressed down in the dirt. It just don't seem right."

During the 911 call, a person identified as a relative said Wilson had not taken his medication and needed to be hospitalized under the Florida Mental Health Act, known as the Baker Act.

Relatives said he had been hospitalized under that act in the past.

In the background of the 911 call, there was commotion and hollering and the honking of a vehicle's horn.

The dispatcher told the relative that the family should stay away from Wilson and keep everyone safe until authorities arrived.

"When we called for help, we called for them to try to take him to a crisis center, somewhere to get him help. Not to come to kill him," Annie Wilson said.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said the actions of the deputies involved are under administrative review. Unlike when deputies use firearms, Taser use does not result in being removed from duty.

The three deputies involved have been with the agency less than two years, according to their personnel records. They do not have prior discipline in their files.

According to the sheriff's office, this is how events unfolded:

Deputy Jessica Guthrie, 27, arrived to find Wilson sitting in the pickup and began talking with him. Guthrie determined Wilson needed a medical evaluation and requested backup.

Wilson became agitated and rambled in conversation. He told Guthrie he was on medication. She smelled alcohol.

Deputies Mary Angelo, 43, and Dustin Hartline, 24, arrived and asked Wilson to get out of the truck. He refused.

One deputy began talking to Wilson about a bicycle in the truck bed while Hartline reached into the cab to remove Wilson from the truck. Wilson grabbed the steering wheel and struggled with Hartline, kicking Hartline in the stomach.

At that point, Angelo used a Taser, striking Wilson in the upper torso. Wilson continued to fight, so Angelo delivered another zap with the Taser so deputies could remove Wilson from the truck.

A Taser is designed to fire jolts of electricity, disabling a person for seconds.

As the deputies struggled with Wilson on the ground, they asked for paramedics because of the Taser deployment.

Wilson tried to crawl under the truck to prevent the deputies from handcuffing him. Angelo then delivered a "drive stun" with the Taser - a close-range zap - to subdue him.

Afterward, the deputies secured Wilson's hands in handcuffs behind his back. Because Wilson continued to struggle, the deputies also placed Wilson in leg irons. The deputies used a second pair of handcuffs to attach the leg irons to his bound hands.

Deputies noticed at that point that Wilson had become unresponsive and had a faint pulse. They removed the handcuffs and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue arrived and took Wilson to the hospital, where he died.

Court records show that Wilson was on probation after being found guilty in August of habitually driving with a revoked license.

Taser safety wasn't properly studied before the weapons were sold to the public, in the view of human rights group Amnesty International. The group advised people to be cautious dealing with the weapons, a spokeswoman from the organization has said.

Amnesty International has tracked more than 290 deaths linked to Taser use on people, according to the organization's Web site.

An Arizona-based Taser International spokesman says Tasers aren't risk-free, but they're safer than other "use of force tools" officers have.

As of Friday, Taser International has a 74-1 record in product liability cases, according to the company.

"Until all the facts surrounding this tragic incident are known, it is inappropriate to jump to conclusions on the cause of death," company spokesman Steve Tuttle wrote in an e-mail to The Tampa Tribune about Wilson.

"We believe that TASER technology protects life and we are prepared to help in the investigation of this unfortunate incident if asked."

Reporter Josh Poltilove contributed to this report. Reporter Valerie Kalfrin can be reached at (813) 259-7800 or vkalfrin@tampatrib

.com. News Channel 8 reporter Jeff Patterson can be reached at (813) 221-5703 or jpatterson


@wfla.com.

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