In the last decade, law enforcement agencies across the nation have invested in taser guns.
They are marketed as a non-lethal alternative to gain control of individuals who often resist arrest or show aggression toward officers.
When they are effective, a stun gun will administer 50,000 volts of electricity, temporarily paralyzing the assailant.
Most individuals will recover from a taser shock in a matter of minutes, but news outlets nationwide have documented more than 1,000 deaths from taser deployments since 2000.
News 5 Investigates wanted to analyze data of how often Colorado Springs police use their taser gun and what crime the suspect is accused of committing, but getting that information has been challenging.
On Dec. 19, 2017, Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross filed an open records request with the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Under Colorado law, a media organization can request a waiver of any fees associated with the open records request, as long as the information is being used for a public purpose.
On Dec. 20, 2017, Lt. Howard Black, a spokesperson for the Colorado Springs Police Department chose not to honor our waiver request.
“I have requested an estimate for your request,” Lt. Black replied.
On Dec. 28, 2017 Lt. Black gave KOAA News 5 a cost estimate of $4,140 to retrieve arrest reports and use of force reports related to taser deployments from 2015-2017. News 5 also requested to review the officer narrative report for each case, which explains the situation surrounding the call for service.
Breakdown of cost estimate and lack of transparency:
Even if KOAA were to pay the $4,140 for records, it’s unclear what we would get.
Lt. Howard Black advised News 5 it would take 138 hours to pull and redact/omit information on the reports we requested and the department charges $30/hr to research taser deployments.
138 hours x $30/hr = $4,140
Most recent taser death in Colorado:
Jeffrey Melvin, 26, died at Memorial Hospital on May 2 after being tased multiple times by Colorado Springs police who were investigating a disturbance call.
According to a press release from the Colorado Springs Police Department, officers were dispatched on Thursday, April 26 to the Remington Apartment complex on E. Fountain Blvd. A caller had stated that he heard people fighting in apartment #211. As officers entered the apartment building, Jeffrey Melvin was leaving. Officers knocked on the apartment door, a man identified as Jordan Bruno answered. Bruno reportedly told authorities that he had been in a fight earlier with some friends who had since left. He also reportedly told officers that there were two other females in the apartment with him. According to a news release issued to media outlets, officers asked if they could come inside and make sure everyone was okay. Police said Bruno gave permission for the officers to enter the apartment.
Inside the apartment:
Once inside the apartment, officers located an adult female and a juvenile. One of the two responding officers asked the juvenile for a telephone number to contact a parent/guardian.
After unsuccessfully being able to reach the juvenile’s father, the officer stepped into the hallway to call a supervisor to discuss what to do with the underage female.
“For approximately the first 18 minutes that the officers were at the apartment, their contact with the three individuals in the apartment was completely cordial and non-adversarial,” a news release said.
Situation goes downhill:
According to Colorado Springs police, the officer in the hallway attempting to reach his supervisor noticed Melvin return and try and get back inside the apartment building. The officer opened the exterior door and asked Melvin if he was going to apartment #211. Melvin allegedly said “no” and then ran into apartment #211. Police say Melvin locked the door before the officer in the hallway could get inside. However, the second officer, who remained inside the apartment asked Melvin to move away from the door so the other officer could enter.
The officer in the hallway came inside and told Melvin that he was being detained and ordered him to put his hands behind his back. Melvin allegedly began moving away from the officers and a physical struggle began.
Officers say they asked Melvin to put his hands behind his back and get on the ground. According to the news release, Melvin told officers he was going to comply, but then resisted.
“Mr. Melvin tried at least twice to jump out of the second story apartment window, but the officers were able to grab him and pull him back inside the apartment,” the CSPD news release said. “As the struggle continued, one of the officers deployed both cartridges from his Taser, but the Taser was ineffective.”
Police also say they deployed “OC” or pepper spray, which didn’t work.
“After approximately three minutes of wrestling between the officers and Mr. Melvin, one of the officers pushed Mr. Melvin onto a couch,” the news released said. “Mr. Melvin got up and started toward the door of the apartment. The officer then deployed his Taser. The Taser was ineffective, and Mr. Melvin continued running toward the door. The officer warned Mr. Melvin to stop and deployed his Taser a second time. The second Taser deployment was initially effective. Melvin fell to the ground, but then quickly stood up and took off running out of the door of the apartment into the hallway, down the stairs and out of the north door of the building. The officers ran after him. Once outside, Mr. Melvin continued running across Fountain Boulevard. After crossing Fountain Boulevard, Mr. Melvin continued running until he eventually slowed and went down on his knees. The officers caught up with him and held him on the ground, but Mr. Melvin resisted their efforts to put his arms behind his back so they could handcuff him. One of the officers struck Mr. Melvin in the torso with his elbow in an effort to get him to comply, but Mr. Melvin still did not do so. The officers held Mr. Melvin on the ground until other officers arrived and assisted with placing him in handcuffs.”
After being arrested, Melvin said he had asthma and complained he couldn’t breathe.
Per CSPD policy, medical assistance was requested to assess the situation. He was taken to Memorial Hospital Central by ambulance.
Melvin was sedated and intubated at the hospital and later taken to the ICU.
“Unfortunately, Melvin’s condition worsened over the next few days and he in the hospital,” CSPD said.
According to the police department, medical staff had indicated that initial tests showed the presence of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, meth and heroin in his system.
An autopsy was conducted by the El Paso County Coroner’s Office on May 3, 2018. The final autopsy report may not be available for several weeks, CSPD said.
BWC (Body-worn cameras):
The incident between Melvin and officers was captured on body worn cameras. Several other responding officers also had their body worn cameras activated.
“Due to the continuing investigations by the Internal Affairs Section and detectives from the Violent Crimes Section, no further information or records will be released at this time,” CSPD said.