Early Friday morning a 33-year man got into a scuttle with police outside a theater at Universal Studios Orlando. Reports say he was "pacing around, grabbing his beard, grabbing his head … being disorderly," and after police got involved, he became violent. One of the five officers present ended up Tasing him; the man -- 33-year-old Adam Spencer Johnson -- ended up dead.
There are plenty of "Don't Tase me bro" jokes out there, but this is anything but funny. It's yet another case that makes us question if police should be allowed to use Taser stun guns in situations that don't absolutely warrant them, and if perhaps they're too powerful.
I was just at Universal Studios Orlando last week with my children. While it's a great time, it's also ripe with potential for problems. Dr. Seuss Landing is nice and sweet, but the Universal complex is also full of bars, adrenaline, and crowds. So I can see why police would be swift to act when trouble arises, and I'm glad they are; but this man's death is concerning.
Perhaps he had some sort of medical condition or was on drugs that increased the effect of the Taser, as police say he wasn't acting rationally. So far toxicology and autopsy reports haven't been released and likely won't be for weeks. But even if there was a reason he was more susceptible to a taser, then there are likely others out there who could be as well. It scares me to think that someone could be killed by police for something minor, especially when there were five officers present.
Besides a few traffic tickets, Johnson had no previous criminal record. Friends and family say he was a nice, mild-mannered guy who didn't drink or take drugs. His boss, Jay Burns of Crown Shredding where Johnson had worked for several years, told The Ledger:
Adam was a very gentle soul, very soft-spoken. He was a loyal, valued employee who treated the business as if it was his own.
According to Amnesty International, in 2008, there had been 351 deaths as a result of stun guns since 2001, and more have occurred since. While I think police should have every possible tool to protect us at their disposal, that also sounds like far too many deaths. Even one warrants a much closer look at the power of stun guns.
Do you think police should be able to use stun guns?
Image via eviltomthai/Flickr