Tasers ineffective in four recent officer-involved shootings

SEATTLE -- There have been four officer-involved shootings in Western Washington in the span of five weeks, and in each case Tasers failed to stop the suspect.

The latest shooting happened Wednesday morning when officers tried to stop a suspect who was coming at them with a large broken glass bottle at Gas Works Park. Police tried not once, but twice to Tase the Gas Works Park suspect.

On the third attempt to stop him, they drew their weapons and fatally shot the man.

A small group of young adults who came to see the old Gas Works Park plant remnants lit up under darkness early Wednesday morning said they were "shocked and scared" when they heard the shooting.

"When we got here we did see a cop car and we heard gunshots and we ducked down," said Bo Hwang, who is visiting Seattle from Los Angeles.

Police say the suspect, who has not been named, threatened them after a park security guard said he'd been attacked.

"One officer fired a Taser at suspect, for whatever reason it did not have an impact," said Seattle Police Assistant Chief Nick Metz during a news conference at Gas Works Park.

He said a second Taser shot had no impact either. Metz said the suspect kept coming at the officers. Two officers fired multiple shots. The suspect was rushed to the hospital, but died several hours later.

The shooting was the fourth officer-involved shooting in five weeks where a Taser was first deployed but was ineffective.
"While it's not a magic bullet, it does have a field rating of about 94 percent. Very effective, but not a magic bullet," said Taser International's Steve Tuttle, based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Taser International says its company supplies more than 90 percent of law enforcement nationwide with Tasers, including Washington.

Tasers fire two probes. To be effective, they need to make direct contact with skin or tight clothing -- loose clothing can cause a disconnect. And that disabling electric shock only works if both probes make contact with the suspect.

"One is a positive one is a negative and they create a cycle or circuit of energy thru the body," said Tuttle.

On Tuesday, King County Sheriff's deputies tried to Tase a burglary suspect. That failed, and police shot him. He's now hospitalized.

Last month, a Taser had no effect on a suspect who stopped his pickup in the middle of traffic on the Ship Canal Bridge.

"A lot of deployments are done in split second timing with someone charging," Tuttle said. "You may have weapon and may be violent and you may have to hit a moving target and that may be in play here."

That may have been the case in Kitsap County when a suspect pulled a knife. When the Taser didn't stop him, officers fired multiple shots, killing the man.