Archive for Sunday, April 25, 2010

Attorneys want lawsuit dismissed in Taser death

Lawrence resident died in Topeka in 2008

April 25, 2010


— Shawnee County deputies who used a Taser on a man shortly before he died at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in Topeka acted reasonably, attorneys said in court documents seeking dismissal of a federal lawsuit.

Walter Edward Haake Jr., 59, of Lawrence, died March 29, 2008, after he was Tasered three times when he refused medical help in the plant’s parking lot. Haake’s family filed a wrongful death suit seeking $100 million, alleging that the officers used unreasonable and deadly force against him.

The lawsuit names Deputies Jason Mills and Shayna Johnson, Sheriff Dick Barta and Shawnee County. Attorneys for all the defendants filed motions last Friday seeking dismissal of the lawsuit.

According to the court records, Haake appeared disoriented and refused medical help when officers arrived at the plant. He also wrapped an arm through his vehicle’s steering wheel before Johnson used a Taser on him to relax his grip.

Once he was removed from the vehicle, Haake was held facedown and handcuffed. County Coroner Erik Mitchell concluded that Haake died accidentally as a result of compression of the torso combined with cardiac disease. He also said the effects of prescription drugs detected in Haake’s system probably contributed to his death.

Haake’s widow, Patricia Haake, and three children filed the lawsuit in October 2008. Taser International, of Wilmington, Del., was dropped from the lawsuit last September. The suit alleges Mills and Johnson deprived Haake of his rights by using unreasonable, excessive and deadly force.

Attorneys for Barta and Shawnee County argue that the deputies acted reasonably. But they said if the judge concludes that deputies deprived Haake of his rights, the sheriff’s office’s policies “were not the moving force behind the constitutional deprivation.”

The Shawnee County prosecutor decided not to file charges in Haake’s death. The deputies were placed on administrative leave for five days, then returned to work.

U.S. Magistrate David A. Waxse has scheduled a trial in the case to begin Aug. 2 at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kan.


Jeanette Kekahbah 7 years, 10 months ago

Seriously, when did it become a crime to refuse medical treatment?

Tasering someone known to be in the midst a medical crisis is beyond stupid. To do it THREE TIMES, WTH?!! Were they TRYING to kill the man?



purplesage 7 years, 10 months ago

Wel, if that's reasonable, what's unreasonable, then? It was unreasonable that these thug cops got off without criminal charges. If they escape civil penalty, too, that'll be really unreasonable. A badge is not a license to bully and mistreat.

I hope this bereaved family gets the entire sum for which this suit asks. The government doesn't understand any language other than $$$. It won't bring back their loved one. There is not compensation for that. This kind of thing happens too frequently, and without consequence for law enforcement. It has to stop.

independant1 7 years, 10 months ago

If the family wins the suit the citizens of Topeka/Shawnee County most likely be the payor. The cops were acting in an official capacity.

jafs 7 years, 10 months ago

What gave them the right to Tase a man for refusing medical treatment?

mass207 7 years, 10 months ago

Amen, Cheeseburger. I can't STAND these posters who've never risked their lives for the safety of the public and are SOO quick to condemn police officers. They hate them until the need them. If you weren't there then shut up. Believe it or not the Police ARE there to help. If they'd let him drive away in the condition he was in and killed someone, they'd STILL blame the Police.

cowboy 7 years, 10 months ago

Theres a big difference in tasing a young healthy person and tasing a 60 year old. Being close to that age myself there is no way I could tolerate trauma now like I could even ten years ago at age 50.

cowboy 7 years, 10 months ago

The gentleman was obviously have a mental issue , medication would have been the answer not an on site shock treatment. corral em then get more help to subdue. Having worked in a State hospital you get more help and subdue and medicate. Not punish

cowboy 7 years, 10 months ago

If you can't differentiate between crazy and criminal you don't qualify to be a police officer. This outcome would have been quite different without the electrical current used on him three times.

cowboy 7 years, 10 months ago

Depending on what sources you look at there are some 350 taser related deaths on the books.

weeslicket 7 years, 10 months ago

"According to the court records, Haake appeared disoriented and refused medical help when officers arrived at the plant." haake appeared "disoriented"-- not belligerent, not criminal, not aggressive -- disoriented. confused.

as a police intervention, haake is then tased three times, forced to the ground and handcuffed, wherein he dies from "compression of the torso" (i.e., the policeman/men's full weight on his chest as he is handcuffed).

hard to argue in favor of these officers using good judgement.

mass207 7 years, 10 months ago

I applaud your attempt, but I really doubt they'll listen.

jonas_opines 7 years, 10 months ago

Almost as if it's not worth listening too, isn't it?

You don't tase a man to make him relax his grip. It's not a magic falling down machine, it can do damage. As, for that matter, can taking a disoriented man and treating him like a criminal with the full concrete flip for not falling over obediently.

Done differently? Don't use a taser, don't throw the guy to the ground and sit on him. Patience, calmness, non-confrontational. Realize, in other words, that just because he's refusing you he's not a criminal.

Police and police-cheerleaders should try and keep this in mind.

jafs 7 years, 10 months ago

An elderly disoriented individual who refuses medical treatment did not need to be "subdued".

Why not leave him alone?

They had already taken his keys, so he couldn't drive.

If he does anything threatening, that would be the time to act.

workerman 7 years, 10 months ago

Gee, I guess the only option was to kill the guy. How dare he refuse medical treatment. Everybody knows refusing medical treatment is a violent threat to others. Looks like there was every indication he was about to hurt himself and others by "going postal," by sitting in his car appearing to be, according to officers, confused. Nice. I hope the police help me someday. If I make it out of their help alive I'll be so grateful.

Dixie Jones 7 years, 10 months ago

Mass and Cheese: you appear to have been there when this happened , give us your take on this ......

workerman 7 years, 10 months ago

"Excuse me sir, are you okay?, you seem a little confused and people are worried about you, is there anything I can do? Would you like medical treatment?" "Free" U.S. citizen, : "No, please leave me alone." Officer: " Okay, call us if you need us." THAT would have been a tragic scenario. People need to OBEY and get "helped" for their protection as well as others. People aren't able to make their own decisions, only law enforcement knows what is best. Come on people, wake up and obey...or else. I think I'll go put a cheeseburger in the microwave and cook it on high for about four hours. Oh they'll listen Mass 207, or they'll get their torso compressed until they're dead.

ssakcaj 7 years, 10 months ago

They had his keys. The incident was over. Once they had his keys he was of no danger to anyone. After that the officer(s) can just stand there and observe him. He would have either continued to be disoriented and passed out in which case he could have been attended to medically, or he would have cleared up and then they could have discussed treatment with him.

People are idiots who go imagineering with comments like "what if he got a gun" or other such idiocy. The police don't deal in pretend scenarios. They deal with the right now. And in the right now you don't Taser 60 year old men who refuse medical treatment.

They went way over the line and I predict the courts will agree with me as well.

equalaccessprivacy 7 years, 10 months ago

There are questions about the safety of those Taser guns. More investigation seems needed.

workerman 7 years, 10 months ago

Agreed ssakcaj, the only problem is that I doubt officers have time to stand around babysitting someone. He refused medical treatment, no one said he was making any threats, offer him assistance and then leave him be. This approach would free officers to do what they are supposed to do-protect and serve, instead of using excessive force on confused old men.

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 10 months ago

From my understanding of somebody who works at Goodyear this gentleman had a fall inside the plant. He then complained of not feeling well and was in the process of leaving to either go home or seek medical treatment. It was at that point the situation escalated.

I'm surprised none of this is taken into account or discussed. This is an entirely different situation than what is being talked about.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

"What gave them the right to Tase a man for refusing medical treatment?"

Come on, folks. The story is poorly written, but I'm fairly certain he wasn't tasered for refusing medical treatment. Failing to comply, resisting the police, etc. and whatever; but I'm sure the police didn't say "Either you get treatment or we're gonna tase ya." A lot of details left out of this lousy reporting job, be careful how irrationally ya jump to conclusions.

jonas_opines 7 years, 10 months ago

There have been a couple articles on this story already, Jaywalker, perhaps why the details are not listed in great detail here. From the prior stories, IIRC, the man refused treatment and was deemed uncooperative, and it escalated from there.

Anyway, this story does say why he was tasered (well, for one of the three times). To "relax his grip on the steering wheel."

My personal opinion, this is not what tasering is for. It's not a magic compliance device, it's a way to use force for protection of officers without resorting to the lethal force of the handgun.

This also happened right as tasers were newly being implemented in Lawrence and across the state, and there were numerous incidents reported of potential overuse in the first few weeks and months.

Jeanette Kekahbah 7 years, 10 months ago

Cheeseburger I don't hate law enforcement. So much for your self-righteousness having any validity. Have a nice day.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago


This is my first experience with the story, I'm sure you're right. As for what a taser is used for vs. what it should be used for.......what the heck do I know? That's the best I got :) I would think that the parameters for its use go beyond merely protection for the officer, though I think that does go a long way to explaining when to utilize the device. In a case like this with the individual showing signs of some sort of illness, limiting personal contact with someone when you don't know whether they have hepatitis, AIDS, etc........? I don't know. If they'd abandoned him and he died people would be up in arms as well. I guess my take is that people in such positions are constantly faced with catch-22's. Now, tasing him 3 times.....? That's where I start to have problems with what went down.

57chevy 7 years, 10 months ago

Anybody with even a limited knowlege of the heart will realize that an externally applied electric shock has a 1 in 1000 chance of trigggering a lethal arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation (regardless of age, sex, health, etc.). Ask your doctor how they test defibrillators after they are implanted. Somehow Tazer, inc has manged to suppress this well-known fact and market there product as "non-lethal", rather than not likely to be lethal. The coroner apparently got his job because he isn't very good at medicine so taking care of dead people seemed safer. He has managed to absolve Taser, inc. although no one who reads this article is likely to believe that pushing on this guys chest killed him. As for the police, give a bully a new toy and they will use it. Unless Tazer use is equated with drawing their service revolver, people will continue to die because police would rather have a limp, compliant citizen than a belligerent one. While I agree that resisting arrest should be reponded to forcefully, I'm pretty sure it shouldn't carry the death penalty. I will contact my state representative and ask for a law that states that a Taser should only be used in a life-threatening situation (like a gun). I would ask those of you who believe death by law enforcement is to be discouraged should do the same.

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