Haake complaint ( .PDF )
Family members of a Lawrence man who died after Shawnee County sheriff’s deputies used a Taser on him have filed a lawsuit seeking $100 million in damages.
Relatives of Walter Haake filed the wrongful death suit in U.S. District Court.
Haake died after sheriff’s deputies were called to the Goodyear Plant in Topeka the night of March 29, 2008.
The 59-year-old plant employee was leaving work, when co-workers noticed he wasn’t feeling well and seemed to be disoriented. They called the sheriff’s department and deputies were attempting to keep Haake from driving home.
But according to court documents, when Haake resisted, sheriff’s deputies tased him three times, twice in the thigh and once in the arm, and held him face down on the ground while handcuffing him.
The lawsuit names Shawnee County Sheriff Richard Barta, the two deputies involved in the incident and Taser International Inc. as defendants.
The lawsuit claims the deputies’ use of excessive and deadly force violated Haake’s constitutional rights.
“At no time during the events … did Walter E. Haake Jr. pose a danger or threat of serious harm to himself or to anyone else,” Attorney Erik Klinkenborg wrote in the complaint. “At the time he was shot with the Taser (he) did not have the keys to his vehicle.”
Haake’s wife and children also blame the company that manufactured the Taser gun, which they call “an unreasonably dangerous product.”
The lawsuit claims the Taser’s design was defective for “allowing for an excessive amount of electricity to be delivered” into Haake’s body, causing his death.
Taser International denies any liability, claiming that Haake did not die as a result of being tased.
The Shawnee County Coroner previously ruled Haake died after being held face down by the deputies, and that it was the compression of his chest, combined with his diabetes and cardiac problems that led to his death.
The judge gave both sides until next year to reach a possible settlement. If an agreement cannot be reached, a jury trial is scheduled for Aug. 2, 2010.