A Statesville man died after being shocked multiple times by Tasers at the Iredell County jail over the weekend, sources say.
Anthony Davidson, 29, was unresponsive when he was taken to Iredell Memorial Hospital Saturday afternoon. He was put on life support and died late Sunday night, police said.
His death is the second Taser-related death this year in the Charlotte area. In March, 17-year-old Darryl Wayne Turner, died after Charlotte-Mecklenburg police used a Taser on him at a Food Lion store in Charlotte.
The officers involved in Davidson's arrest – at least two from the Statesville Police Department – were put on administrative duty until the State Bureau of Investigation completes a probe into the incident.
Assistant Chief Tom Anderson of the Statesville Police Department said he was unaware how many officers or deputies may have fired their Tasers and the duration of the shocks.
But a source familiar with the investigation told the Observer that Davidson was shocked at least three times by several different law enforcement officers. Family members told the Observer that police said he had been shocked at least twice.
The incident began about 3 p.m. Saturday at a Statesville grocery store. Employees at the Food Lion on N.C. 115 told police they tried unsuccessfully to stop Davidson from leaving the store with a full cart of groceries after his debit card was declined. He left the parking lot without the groceries, police said.
When officers caught up with Davidson a short time later, he was carrying an Applebee's gift card from the store that hadn't been paid for, Anderson said.
Officers took Davidson to the Iredell County Jail where he appeared before a magistrate on a larceny charge. Davidson was behaving abnormally from the time officers first encountered him, Anderson said.
While being booked, Davidson became “physically aggressive and was communicating loudly,” Anderson said. That's when officers used one or more Tasers to get him “back under control,” police said.
A nurse who screened Davidson afterward told officers he needed further medical screening because he appeared to be “under the influence of some type of impairing substance.”
Paramedics took Davidson to the hospital Saturday. His condition continued to decline and he was unresponsive when he arrived, Anderson said. He was admitted to intensive care and was taken off life support about 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Statesville police and the sheriff's office are reviewing the incident internally to determine whether the arresting officers followed procedures. The sheriff's office did not return phone calls Monday.
Davidson, who was unemployed, had been in jail previously – mostly on charges such as possessing marijuana, simple assault and misdemeanor larceny, all of which were dropped by a district attorney, according to court documents. In 1999 and again in 2000, he was found guilty of violating a domestic violence protective order. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired, documents show.
Davidson's family said they weren't aware of him using or having a problem with drugs or alcohol.
“He was a very happy, joyful person – the life of the party type of person who lit up a room when he walked in,” said his uncle, Jerry Moore. “Whether he used or had used substances, we don't know.”
They said police told them Davidson fell while being subdued and may have hit his head.
An autopsy is scheduled later this week, Moore said.
Last month, the officer involved in the Charlotte Taser incident was cleared of criminal charges but was suspended for five days for violating the department's policy when he continuously shocked Darryl Turner for 37 seconds, a factor that contributed to his death.
A Taser is a weapon that typically uses compressed nitrogen to shoot two tethered needle-like probes that penetrate skin and deliver an electric shock. It's designed to temporarily subdue a person. Studies suggest that multiple shocks might increase the risk of serious injury, which has prompted some agencies to limit the number of times an officer can shock someone.
Officers are taught to pull and immediately release the Taser trigger to deliver a five-second shock. They may repeatedly pull the trigger in extreme circumstances when necessary to control a suspect. But the goal is to use the minimal force necessary to control a suspect, Anderson said.
Taser-related deaths across North Carolina prompted a coalition to study Taser use. The N.C. Taser Safety Project surveyed the state's 100 sheriff's offices and found that 70 issued Tasers to some or all of its deputies, but many agencies lack clear policies about when and how they should be used.