Details of Taser incident emerge

Man suspected of having head injury shocked three times, died soon after

Lake Service

A tree dedication and candlelight vigil for Walter Edward Haake Jr. will be at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Clinton Lake State Park, according to Sonny Scroggins, a Topeka community activist who has had numerous demonstrations urging better training for police in handling nonthreatening situations and mentally ill patients.

For more information, call Scroggins at (785) 845-6148 or (785) 232-3761.

? It started as a call to the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office late Saturday night for help in getting medical attention to a 59-year-old employee at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant, officials said Wednesday.

Plant employees said Walter Edward Haake Jr., of Lawrence, seemed disoriented and may have had a head injury. They didn’t think it would be safe for him to drive, they said.

A little more than an hour later, Haake was dead. He had been stunned with a Taser three times by a sheriff’s deputy, then handcuffed before he collapsed.

“The intent was to get this person helped,” said Shawnee County Sheriff Dick Barta at a news conference. “I don’t know if the Taser caused” his death, Barta said.

He said the deputies had already taken away Haake’s keys for his white Jeep.

Barta said he didn’t want to second guess at this point why one of the deputies resorted to the Taser, but said the matter was the subject of two separate investigations.

He said Tasers are only supposed to be used in extreme situations, but added, “Every situation is different. There is no way you can address every situation.” He said the two deputies who were involved in the incident – whom he did not identify – remain on duty and have had unblemished records.

Outside the news conference, a friend of Haake’s carried a sign protesting the use of a Taser.

“You can’t take the lazy way out and tase people when they just sit in their car and do nothing,” said John McNown. “They should’ve called a more qualified person to handle that situation,” he said.

The Taser stun gun was applied to Haake three times, delivering 1,200 volts each time, Barta said.

“The first two times was two seconds each, and the third time was a little longer than that, maybe four seconds,” Barta said.

Deputies were trying to get Haake out of his vehicle and into a waiting ambulance, he said. But Haake didn’t want to get medical attention and was uncooperative, he said.

After the third time, there was a “brief physical confrontation” and Haake was handcuffed, Barta said. Then Haake became unresponsive and was taken by the ambulance to a hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly afterward, Barta said.

The Taser was used in the “Drive Stun” capacity, where the Taser is held against the person without firing a cartridge, and is intended to cause pain without incapacitating the person, officials said.

The Shawnee County coroner is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of death.

A woman who answered the telephone at Haake’s residence said the family didn’t want to comment.

McNown, who worked at Goodyear with Haake, said he didn’t witness the incident but couldn’t understand why the deputies decided to use the Taser since they had already kept Haake from leaving by taking away his keys.

“How does it go from not being able to go anywhere to death?” he asked.