A TASER is a Dangerous Weapon, But the Officer in The Rayshard Brooks Case Acted Unreasonably

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Authorities in Georgia ruled that the fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks outside an Atlanta Wendy’s was a homicide, NBC reports.  

“Brooks, 27, died after he was shot twice in the back on June 12, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement.

Police responded to a possible drunk driving case at a fast-food restaurant and started to administer sobriety tests to Brooks. Once the officer determined to arrest and cuff Brooks, he twisted and turned, grabbed the cop’s TASER, and fled. 

It appears that Brooks attempted to use the device against the officer who responded by shooting him. 

WAS IT REASONABLE FOR THE OFFICER TO SHOOT BROOKS?

Ultimately, the issue is whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer’s actions were reasonable. Brooks’s use of the Taser is illuminating but not dispositive. 

A police officer may only use deadly force when the officer reasonably believes the subject poses a significant threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or others. 

IS A TASER A DANGEROUS WEAPON?

A TASER is an acronym for “Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle.” It has been described as an electric “stun gun” that shoots two little darts into a live target (human or animal). The combined current forms a circuit that temporarily stuns and incapacitates, yet the stunning effect has an almost immediate cessation. Its general purpose is to allow the user to briefly incapacitate the target for reasons like self-defense, capture, and detention.

A dangerous weapon is often defined as any firearm or any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm. 

When asked, Seattle police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said “For us, Tasers are considered less-lethal,” Seattle police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said. “I think you’d have to make a really hard argument that a Taser is a deadly weapon.” “It depends on the circumstances and how the Taser was used,” said Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. In most cases, someone using a Taser on another person would not be considered an attack with a deadly weapon, he said.

WE THINK A TASER IS A DANGEROUS WEAPON

If a TASER is a dangerous weapon, does this make the officer’s actions reasonable? We think not. 

Of course, we do not have all the facts, and more information is likely forthcoming. Nevertheless, the officer knew Brooks had a TASER, not a gun. Brooks was running away, and it is expected that he had been identified and could have been arrested later. The officer’s life did not appear to be in danger. The crime Brooks was alleged to have committed was a DWI, and subsequently, an assault on an officer. Under these circumstances, the officer’s act of shooting Brooks was unreasonable. 

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