Juan Flores Lopez, 47, died this week in Texas, at a local hospital, after bursting into flames. The problem is that the fire started when he was shot by a policeman with a Taser gun, thought to be reliable and non-lethal by most police agencies.
After initially using pepper spray on the man, with no effect, the policeman used a Taser to immobilize the man. Unfortunately, the man, who previously had poured gasoline over himself, burst into flames caused by the electric discharge of the weapon. The gun was ultimately fatal.
"We don't know what ignited the fire," police said. A 10 year old can realize the spark was caused by the electric shock, as basic physics applications teach you that the heating is one of the effects of electricity passing through a conductor. The human body IS a good conductor!
The Taser is an electroshock weapon, an incapacitant used for subduing a person by administering electric shock that may disrupt superficial muscle functions.
Supporters say that electroshock guns are a safer alternative to devices such as firearms. Taser uses the term "non-lethal" as defined by the US Department of Defence - which does not mean the weapon cannot cause death, but that it is not intended to be fatal.
The Phoenix Police Department, Arizona, reported in April 2006, 42 cases where a Taser was used to immobilize suspects. None of them were lethal.
But between June 2001 and June 2007, there were at least 245 cases of deaths of subjects soon after having been shocked using Tasers. These guns come with express instructions not to use them where flammable liquids or fumes may be present, such as filling stations or by police raiding methamphetamine labs, as Tasers, like other electric devices, have been found to ignite flammable materials.
Unfortunately, the policemen disregarded these instructions and used such a gun against a man who had just poured gasoline over himself! Police officers that patrol schools, including grade schools, in several US states (including Kansas, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Florida), currently carry Tasers.
The police forgot to mention whether Lopez had been charged with anything or not...