Taser Victim's Wife Sues Galveston, Taser

Harvey Rice
Houston Chronicle
March 12, 2012

Link to Story

GALVESTON - The wife of a Galveston man who died two days after being shocked by a Taser is suing the city and county of Galveston and the manufacturer of the device.

Sabrina Allen, wife of 34-year-old Raymond Luther Allen Jr., filed a lawsuit in Galveston federal court last week on behalf of her three children. She accuses police and sheriff's deputies of violating her husband's civil rights by shooting him with a Taser and allegedly causing his death Feb. 27.

The lawsuit accuses Galveston police of tacitly condoning excessive force and says the department has a history of excessive force complaints.

Sheriff's deputies and Galveston police lack formal Taser training and the city has no policy prohibiting the use of a stun gun on those suspected of being under the influence of drugs or in a state of excited delirium, the lawsuit says.

Sheriff's spokesman Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo said all deputies issued Tasers are trained and must be qualified periodically. He declined to discuss the lawsuit. City spokeswoman Alicia Cahill said the city will have no comment on Taser policy or the lawsuit.

The suit accuses Taser International of knowingly marketing as non-lethal and non-harmful a product that can cause death. Tony Buzbee, Sabrina Allen's attorney, said 330 people have died from Tasers since 2001 and 60 lawsuits have been filed.

Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said studies have shown that "Taser electronic control devices are generally safe and effective." Tuttle said, "It has saved numerous lives, dramatically reduced injuries to both officers and suspects while reducing excessive use-of-force litigation."

The Texas Rangers are investigating Allen's death at the request of both Galveston agencies.

The Galveston County Medical Examiner is not expected to release the cause of death for several weeks.

Raymond Allen encountered police after witnesses saw him jump twice off the second story of the Beachcomber Inn on 61st Street in Galveston, the lawsuit says.

Officers found Allen sitting on the curb next to the Waffle House Restaurant adjacent to the hotel and were worried about his safety, asking if he needed an ambulance, according to the lawsuit.

Officers suspected he was under the influence of drugs, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit asserts Allen never threatened officers, but it says officers hogtied him and shocked him multiple times with Tasers because he was not responsive or compliant.

"No doubt the man was under the influence of drugs, but I don't think that writes your death sentence," Buzbee said.