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.