Amnesty issued a Feb. 15 news release to bring attention to the national death toll from Tasers hitting the 500 mark. It indicated OKCPD as being responsible for seven deaths by Taser over the last decade.
However, OKCPD Capt. Dexter Nelson said that since 2003 there have been six recorded deaths that occurred after a Taser’s deployment on a subject. Overall, he said, that time period saw 19 deaths of people while in OKCPD custody.
Moreover, Nelson said none of those in-custody deaths were ruled by the state Medical Examiner’s Office to have been caused by the use of a Taser. He added that the number of in-custody deaths has actually decreased since the department began using Tasers.
“We have no deaths, or even in the state of Oklahoma that I’m aware of, that the medical examiner has ruled was due to a Taser,” Nelson said.
Two of the most common factors regarding in-custody deaths, Nelson said, are narcotics — such as cocaine, methamphetamines or PCP — in the suspect’s bloodstream, as well as physical exertion from trying to avoid capture.
Nelson said he did not know whether narcotics in a suspect’s system and physical exertion coupled with the shock of a Taser would have been responsible for the death in any of the six cases.
“I don’t think anyone has ever been able to determine that, whether a Taser had effect on those deaths,” Nelson said. “From the facts we have seen, the Taser hasn’t affected our in-custody death rate. We actually had more before we had Tasers.”