You hear that cops used a taser on an 8-year-old and you can’t fathom why. At least that’s what I thought. What kind of threat could a 70-pound girl possibly pose that would justify sending a force of electricity through her body intense enough to lift her up and throw her against a wall?
What if I told you it was to keep the girl safe — from herself? Does that change your opinion?
As CNN reports, it hasn’t changed the mind of the child’s mother, Dawn Stenstrom, who is now suing the city of Pierre, South Dakota, claiming the four officers who responded to the scene used excessive force.
The girl’s babysitter called police on October 14 of last year because the child had a knife in her hand and was threatening to hurt herself. Officers arrived and warned the 8-year-old they would use the taser if she didn’t drop the knife. She didn’t drop the knife so they took action. The scene, as described by CNN from the lawsuit:
‘Within seconds’ an officer fired darts from the electroshock weapon into the chest of the 70-pound girl, according to the lawsuit filed by the girl’s mother. “The force of the electricity shot through her body, lifted her, and threw her against a wall. After the officers had stunned (the girl) into high voltage submission, they pulled the fish-hook like Taser darts from her chest, gave her emergency medical attention, bandaged the holes left by the razor-sharp hooks, and called the ambulance.”
While Stenstrom says that constitutes excessive force and is seeking $100,000 in damages plus punitive damages, former police chief, Robert Grandpre, tells CNN affiliate KSFY that the police “might possibly have saved this girl’s life.” After an independent two-month investigation, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation agrees, ruling in December that the officer using the taser acted appropriately.
“Given the circumstances facing the officer at the time, it appears from the report that deploying a Taser was the best viable way to defuse the situation,” Wendy Kloeppner, the Hughes County state’s attorney, said in a statement.
Stenstrom’s attorney, Dana Hanna says that decision is ridiculous. “Four trained police officers surrounding a 70-pound, 8-year-old Indian girl, should have used less risky tactics … One distracts her, another grabs the girl’s arm. That’s what they should have done,” Hanna said. “She had a kitchen paring knife, but hadn’t cut. She was a kid throwing a tantrum. They should have made an attempt to grab the kid, not use a weapon to throw her into a wall. A Taser’s not meant to kill, but it does kill. Many people have died after being hit by a Taser by cops. It never should be used on a little child. She certainly wasn’t presenting a danger to officers.”
“I don’t fault the police for being there because they were called. They were there. But what happened while they were there is why I’m upset.” the girl’s father, Bobby Jones, told KSFY. “I don’t think 8-year-olds should be Tased anywhere in the world,” Jones said.
I have to disagree. While tasing the girl seems over the top, as a parent I think I’d consider possible alternatives and just be grateful the situation was diffused and my kid was okay. What if she had cut herself before officers could find another way to stop her? Would Stenstrom be suing for negligence? The babysitter called police and they did what they thought necessary to defuse the situation. Tasing an 8-year-old is certainly not ideal and maybe they could have disarmed the girl in a different manner but who’s to say what was or wasn’t possible during the critical seconds the girl was threatening to cut herself. You never know.
What do you think? If it were your child, how would you react? Is mom justified in claiming excessive force or the officers did what they had to do?