Local News

State Court of Appeals to review Durham police Taser case

Posted December 26, 2013

The North Carolina Supreme Court has asked the state Court of Appeals to review the case of a man who filed a lawsuit against the City of Durham after a Taser was used on him by a Durham police officer.

Bryan DeBaun contends the Durham Police Department’s use of force policy is unconstitutional and dangerous. He said he was seriously injured after Officer Daniel J. Kuszaj used a Taser on him in 2009.

The city attorney’s office didn't return a phone call seeking comment. A police spokeswoman said the department cannot comment on the case because it remains in litigation.

According to court documents, Kuszaj spotted DeBaun holding a case of beer while crossing a street in the early morning of July 24, 2009. DeBaun told Kuszaj he was on his way home from drinking.

DeBaun produced identification and was frisked by Kuszaj.

“I believe he patted me down and then was going to check my ID, but he started to put handcuffs on me, and I asked him if I was under arrest, and he said, ‘No,’” DeBaun said in court, according to the petition.

Kuszaj later testified that his intent was to detain DeBaun for his own protection, not arrest him. DeBaun was never told he was going to be detained, the petition said.

DeBaun started running from the officer. Kuszaj did not yell for DeBaun to stop and did not warn him that a Taser was going to be used on him, according to the petition. DeBaun also did not possess a weapon and did not threaten the officer, the document said.

Kuszaj used the Taser twice on DeBaun, the petition said, causing him to fall face first on the sidewalk.

DeBaun said his medical bills for surgery to repair broken facial bones and treatment for broken teeth exceeded $30,000. He was later acquitted of being drunk and disruptive and resisting an officer, but he was convicted of impeding traffic by standing in the road.

The case was initially dismissed in District Court, and the state Court of Appeals ruled the officer was correctly following the department’s use of force policy.

Taser use by local police has made headlines this year.

Thomas Jeffery Sadler died in April after Raleigh police officers used a Taser to subdue him. Officers were responding to a call of a naked man shouting obscenities in the Five Points neighborhood. After the Taser was used, Sadler collapsed and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Supreme Court request is the latest incident involving Durham police. A march earlier this month to protest the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta in the back of a patrol car ended with police lobbing tear gas and arresting several protesters. Police say Huerta shot himself in the head after being arrested on second-degree trespassing charges in November.

18 Comments

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  • chatamite Dec 26, 7:26 p.m.

    Excessive Force Policy? Sure it's not called Use of Force Policy?

  • TP4Real Dec 26, 7:25 p.m.

    We need to increase spending on tasers. Some of that savings from education cuts SHOULD be getting used on some real law and order. If we need to cut out more teachers, let's do it now while all the libs are already whining anyway, and buy more tasers.

  • yellow_hat Dec 26, 7:08 p.m.

    The cop told him he was not being detained - why should he not be allowed to run, or walk fast, or walk slow, or crawl away. Is there a specific speed that is accepted to take your leave if one is not being detained? Clearly a case of excessive force.

  • Justic4All Dec 26, 7:01 p.m.

    Once upon a time if the person of interest did not display a weapon, and ran away, (back to the officer), the LEO was not allowed to fire upon that person....period... No excuses.

    It is different now and once the box that allows officers to open fire because they "FEARED FOR THEIR LIFE", (beautiful catch phrase), is open as it is now, can you imagine what the world will be like in 10 years?

  • Justic4All Dec 26, 6:39 p.m.

    state Court of Appeals ruled the officer was correctly following the department’s excessive force policy

    I sure would like to know what this policy states. Is it a guideline on when and how excessive the force can be depending on the officer's discretion? Like I want to walk you home so let me put in cuffs? I want you to stand away from the car, if not I taser you? Pepper spray is always an alternative?

    A policy to follow when excessive force is needed. I'd love to see it.

  • disgusted2010 Dec 26, 5:38 p.m.

    another case of police abuse. trust me that the police know that their only alibi is to say it was done for the person's safety. Send it to a jury of peers and stop allowing the police to cover these activities up.

    ProzacDispenser

    Do you have proof of a cover up or is this just another libelous anti-law enforcement post?

  • Obamacare for America Dec 26, 5:36 p.m.

    Don't run like a criminal and you won't get tasered. End of case.

  • GETOUT Dec 26, 4:53 p.m.

    Prozacdispenser, what exactly are the police trying to cover up in your opinion?? What do you suggest the officer do when someone flees??? Let them go?? Then when said fleeing persons hurts you or your family during his getaway, you will be asking why the officer didnt tase him...

  • LuvLivingInCary Dec 26, 4:30 p.m.

    another case of police abuse. trust me that the police know that their only alibi is to say it was done for the person's safety. Send it to a jury of peers and stop allowing the police to cover these activities up.

  • theblazer Dec 26, 4:24 p.m.

    Taser should be used when an officer feels like he is in danger. Not to slow down a running handcuffed person. "Stop running handcuffed person I really do not feel like going after you. Take this taser."

    Wrong - a taser needs be used when people act up. It should be considered as a non-lethal compliance tool. There would be alot less officer injuries. Some people just need a little nudge to act right.

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