Former Houston police officer sues Taser over injuries suffered in assault

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Published 5:51 pm, Friday, April 7, 2017

A former Houston police officer severely injured when her Taser failed to stop a combative, mentally ill woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the device’s manufacturer.

The suit by former Officer Karen Taylor says Tasers have failed to function properly at least 450 times in the Houston Police Department in the past five years, causing unnecessary injury and sometimes death to officers and suspects.

The injuries may have ended Karen Taylor’s dreams of being a police officer, her lawyer said.

“A Taser is often the only thing standing between the officer and lethal force,” said attorney Chris Bell. “In this particular case, if backup had not arrived when it did, she would have been left with almost no recourse except to use her gun. And then we’re talking about someone being killed over stealing a bottle of water.”

Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser International, which was renamed the Axon corporation last week, declined to comment on pending litigation, but he said the weapons have been tested worldwide and in use for two decades. More than 18,000 law enforcement groups use the company’s products, he said.

“This is the most effective and most used ‘less lethal weapon’ on an officer’s belt – that’s compared with baton strikes, pepper spray. This has been tested worldwide in use for two decades now.”

Taylor was attacked in 2015 when she responded to reports from a convenience store that a disturbed woman was grabbing water bottles, drinking from them and then putting them back in the store cooler. when Taylor arrived, the woman was on the sidewalk, yelling incoherently and pacing back and forth.

Taylor had seen the woman earlier in the day and realized she was mentally ill. She tried to coerce her into the squad car but a fight ensued. Taylor fired the Taser once and stopped the woman momentarily, but she charged again. 

Taylor then tried to use her Taser another five times and said it did not work.

She suffered back injuries and eventually resigned from the Houston Police Department. She now has a clerical job and lives in a Dallas suburb.

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