Opinion

Why hide details of probe into police Taser death?

Here's what we know about how 17-year-old Darryl Wayne Turner died: He had cardiac arrest after a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer shot him with a Taser gun.

Yet what we don't know about that shooting is just as important. Police and prosecutors should say how many times Mr. Turner was shot and make public a surveillance videotape that captured much of the confrontation. That's the only way to settle questions about what happened.

Prosecutors announced last week that Police Officer Jerry Dawson acted appropriately when he shocked Mr. Turner during a March confrontation at a north Charlotte grocery store. Officials said Mr. Turner was shocked more than once after he advanced on the officer.

Yet police and prosecutors have refused to reveal how many times the officer shot Mr. Turner and refused to air a videotape that showed what happened leading up to the shooting.

That secrecy doesn't make sense. If the investigation cleared the officer, those key details would only reinforce that finding.

For one thing, knowing how many times Mr. Turner was shot gives the public a way to evaluate the officer's response in light of some disturbing facts.

A June study by the U.S. Department of Justice reviewed Taser deaths and found that many of them are associated with repeated shocks. It cautioned law enforcement agencies against repeated shockings, saying the medical risks are unknown.

Mr. Turner's autopsy showed the teen's heart was pumping so fast and chaotically from the Taser shot and the confrontation that it stopped pumping blood properly.

In addition, sharing the surveillance video with the public would resolve conflicting accounts of what it shows. A lawyer representing Mr. Turner's family has viewed videotape. He disputes the police account that Mr. Turner walked or advanced aggressively toward the officer before he was shot.

A Taser gun is a far less deadly way for police to subdue a combative suspect than a pistol. The most common injuries when CMPD officers use Tasers are cuts from falls or the shot. Yet this widely used tool is not without risk. When someone dies, the public has a right to complete information about what happened. That would only boost confidence in the devices, and the way CMPD officers use them.

  Comments