TASEd gas-filled Chrysler (courtesy wiftv.com)

TASERs are painful. Incapacitating even (duh). But safe. Unless the TASEE’s hopped-up on some serious stimulants. Or the TASEE has previous health complaints. Or, usually, both. We know this because TASER aggressively defends each and every TASER-related lawsuit in court. And there have been a LOT of ambulance-chasers trying to milk that particular cash cow. None of which hit pay dirt. But here’s one where there’s no question that a police-deployed conducted electrical weapon (CEW) caused the demise of a perp . . .

The incident began in Pine Valley, in March 2012 when Border Patrol agents in an unmarked car tried to pull over Alex Martin.

Martin was allegedly driving the wrong way on Interstate 8, but refused to pull over because it was dark and the car was unmarked.

After chasing Martin for three minutes, he was finally brought to a stop using spike strips.

The dashcam video shows a plainclothes agent trying to open the passenger side door, then smashing the window of Martin’s car before firing the Taser into the vehicle.

That’s when a fireball engulfs the car, blowing the officer back.

Dashcam video then captures the patrol agents quickly pulling away from Martin’s burning vehicle.

Martin’s family is now suing the federal government, claiming wrongful death.

Their lawyer, Eugene Iredale, states that the agents should have smelled the spilled gas in the car, which was ignited by the Taser’s spark.

He also claims that none of the agents tried to save Martin, despite all three patrol agent’s cruisers having fire extinguishers.

The federal government is looking to dismiss the lawsuit though, focusing on previous issues Martin had had with the law.

wftv.com’s report doesn’t include the video, but the still above it still horrifying. I don’t hold out much hope for the lawsuit given that the police don’t have a legal duty to save anyone from anything ever. One of the [many] reason s why anyone who doesn’t carry a firearm is advised to do so.

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75 Responses to First Genuine Death-by-TASER?

  1. Using a fire extinguisher on a gasoline fueled vehicle fire is like using a .22 LR to stop an M-1 tank. The correct thing to do in that scenario is to save the fire extinguishers to prevent the fire from spreading. Btw, only a suicidal maniac soaks himself in gasoline and drives down the freeway the wrong way.

    • Only a maniac would expect people to pull over for an unmarked car on a dark road, or expect a person to open the door and surrender to a gang of non-uniformed assailants trying to smash open your window.

      • Better he gets killed for his stupidity rather than the minivan with a family in it that would have been smashed apart by him as he drove down the wrong side of the highway because the police in question were afraid to stop him.

        • Now you’re justifying manslaughter or murder with hypothetical scenarios. Get out with your minority report BS.

        • @Sex T,

          You better bet I’m not going to allow some drunken A-hole to drive the wrong way on a freeway. If you call this incident murder than your bias shows.

        • Where in the article stated Martin was drunk or under the influence of any drug?

          Also I stated manslaughter *or* murder. Why did you only read murder? Check your bias. 🙂

        • No issues with deploying the strips, but once again, why the escalation? Plainclothes attempting to enter car? Why? Use the frakkin’ PA until a uni, or three, arrives. He’s not going anywhere, he is no longer a threat to innocent lives.

          He was not reported to be brandishing, threatening, or anything that would indicate hostile intent save for the failure to yield. The failure to yield has been addressed with the strips, so take a breath. Running up to the car smashing the window for no cause beyond a likely DWI is just beyond silly. He’s contained in the vehicle, if he won’t come out, sit in your damn cruiser and wait for backup. Tasing some uncooperative drunk as the first “goto” is beyond Ricky Ranger, it’s pathetic.

        • Simple fix, no more “plain clothes” officers or unmarked cars. An armed government employee should be readily identifiable at a distance of at least 100 yards. Maybe a requirement that all LEOs be dressed in hot pink and lime green.

        • Always fun to see supposed “2A supporters” justify state-sanctioned murder of citizens.

        • No DUI mentioned. You got me there. Wrong way drivers at night are typically drunk / drug DUIs. Anecdotal, right? Your opinion on that might change the very first time you see a wrong-way driver kill someone. Or a whole family. And they do a post-mortem toxicology abalysis on a portion of the corpse because the bodies are in pieces.

        • The dude was driving up the wrong side of the street and didn’t stop. You think a couple gangbangers are gonna chase some guy driving up the wrong side of the road? Driving the wrong way is, in fact, a crime. By not pulling over or opening the window, dude’s resisting arrest.

          Whether or not the cop should’ve/could’ve/would’ve smelled the gas isn’t really relevant at all. You can smell gas when inside some vehicles, mine being one of them, without there being any sort of problem. Seems like a suicide by cop scenario here.

          Seriously, not all police are bad. Take the tinfoil hat off.

        • >>By not pulling over or opening the window, dude’s resisting arrest.

          Gee, if there was a armed gang in plainclothes beating on my window after running me off the road, I’d probably want to stay put. In fact, I bet there’s a significant portion of people on TTAG who considers that grounds for a lethal armed response.

          But hey, all crimes are punishable by summary execution. That’s what Ben is saying.

        • >>Wrong way drivers at night are typically drunk / drug DUIs. Anecdotal, right?

          I’m seeing a trend here, calling for an immediate death penalty for driving on the wrong side of the road. Highly disturbing stuff.

        • Don’t listen to old Reptoid, guys, that’s actually Harry Reid. Luckily, he and his reptilian cohorts from the Zeta Reticuli star system are not running for congress again.

        • A81, My point was he didn’t kill anyone and the immediate danger was stopped. I don’t know your experience, but from what I know, wrong way (with failure to yield) on an Interstate is 90% DWI, 5% old people who shouldn’t be driving, and 5% fleeing felons.

          That he may not initially comply shouldn’t be a big deal – as long as he isn’t a threat. Failure to comply does not equal threat. I’ve seen the results of wrong-way accidents dozens times over the last few decades. That potential for harm does not equate to actual harm. Nor does it render the judiciary irrelevant. Arrest him peacefully with the minimum of required force, and that may take a few minutes or hours. So what?

          He may have wanted to SBC. Is the job really to deliver his wish in a case where it could have been avoided?

        • He was a threat as long as he had gas in the car (in the tank, not the passenger compartment). While it would have not been justified to use deadly force, it is objectively reasonable (by my standards and the courts) to use less-lethal force to arrest someone. The police do not need to wait around until the guy decides he wants to drive again before effecting an arrest.

        • He was still a threat because he might drive off again at any time while sitting in 4 flat tires (police used spike strips) and surrounded by police vehicles? Sure.

    • “Using a fire extinguisher on a gasoline fueled vehicle fire is like using a .22 LR to stop an M-1 tank.”

      But you should try – it might knock the fire down enough to permit a rescue. Also, Class B (flammable liquid) fire extinguishes are what SHOULD be in a vehicle.

  2. Some of the 1st gen Taser have ignited olde-school alcohol-based OC sprays.

    My trainee killed a suspect high on PCP. He simply wouldn’t stop fighting and wouldn’t listen to commands. He was Tased several times and his heart finally gave out. The combination illegal drug cocktail, fighting, and Taser application caused (contributed?) to a state of excited delirium which was too much for his heart to handle.

    An investigation ruled the use of for e justifiable, which also seems to be the case to me given the totality of the circumstances.

    Then again, maybe I shouldn’t share “anecdotes.”

    Anyways, Tasers have caused / contributed to a number of deaths (don’t have the stats handy). They have been reclassified from non-lethal to “less-lethal” – meaning they aren’t intended as lethal force. I think Tasers are much more effective than pepper spray, but certainly are inferior to handguns and long guns.

      • PCP? Yup, they can sustain multiple fractures and take on 6 decent sized cops, sometimes (temporarily) winning. I’ve seen broken S&W hinged cuffs from an ‘incident’ with some guy flipping out while dusted. I heard a story about another guy who somehow crushed his hand so he could slip out.

  3. >> I don’t hold out much hope for the lawsuit given that the police don’t have a legal duty to save anyone from anything ever.

    The lawsuit isn’t about the failure to save Martin, it is over the killing of Martin.

  4. Yeah, it’s totally the cops fault…riiiiight. Guy driving the wrong way, likely intoxicated…with gas all over the car. The po-po totally should have known. LMAO. Just another psycho Darwin Award.

  5. Of all the ways for a guy to get his ticket punched, being barbecued alive must be among the absolute worst.

  6. Hate to be a stickler, but the cause of the death would be the fire or smoke inhalation. I still doubt the TAZER killed the subject.

  7. Have never liked tazers right from the start and do not agree with their use and existence. We got along without them and still could.

  8. Police do have a legal duty to save someone if the their actions they knowingly and willfully cause the situation and fail to intercede to mitigate the harm. For example if a group of police disarm someone of a defensive tool at gunpoint and watch than they assume a duty to protect that disarmed person’s safety.

      • Horesh!t. Cops do have liability, particularly under “special relationships,” and have been sued for millions in cases of negligence.

        • Legally, yes. This incident should fall under state-created danger liability.

          But practically, no, since cops get away with almost everything they do, as I already demonstrated with the grand jury indictment statistics.

        • That’s a little ways away from the “never responsible for anything” comment you just made, eh?

          Anyways, I gotta go get ready for my part in Baker to Vegas.

        • I love how he makes a clear blanket statement, is shown to be clearly wrong, but instead of admitting it he just makes some special pleading about how it doesn’t matter because cops are bad.

          “Hands up, don’t shoot” right?

        • Feel free to explain how “hands up don’t shoot” has a racial context. 🙂

  9. 2010- 2011 drove through the BP check point on the west bound lanes while returning home from work assignment.
    There is an exit just before the check point to an access road that was occasionally manned by BP.
    If I saw a lot of traffic heading to check point on the I-8 I would take the exit and hopefully it would be quicker with less traffic.
    It was known at the time that some “drivers” would cross center divide, drive against on coming traffic to take access road or to try to bypass main or just pass through secondary check point well before the exit and main check point.
    Had a shit fuck moment with vehicle coming at me going west while I was traveling east bound, I drove into the scrub on the right side, never stopped moving, let him have the lanes and then some.
    We might never know why he was driving into opposing traffic, for me it’s just one less I have to watch for

  10. The lesson here is if you’re going to drive on the wrong side, not stop for unmarked police cars, and not roll down your windows after they stop you by blowing out your tires, you’d better do it in an armored car.
    (Or use run flat tires?)

  11. What doesn’t make sense in this case is the escalation of force. The driver never (as far as can be gleaned from the news) threatened the officers. Furthermore, I’d be hesitant to stop for an unmarked cruiser, and would definitely call 911 to verify it’s authenticity. That said, he was going down the wrong side of the road, seemingly intentionally. He was probably a few dozen cards short of a full deck and it should not be assumed he’d be thinking rationally.

    Regardless the escalation of force was unnecessary unless new info comes out. Use of a weapon of any kind on a person in a stopped/disabled vehicle is unacceptable unless they pose a legitimate threat.

    • Your opinion is very much not backed up by decades of caselaw (Graham v. Connor being the landmark). Think about the practical implications. Action is faster than reaction. Are police supposed to keep a highway closed for hours waiting to see if the suspect decides to give up or fight- possibly with a one-tonne hunk of metal? And the strategy for DUI’s would be simple. Refuse to cooperate and since the cops can’t touch you, no evidence!

      The police can use a reasonable amount of non-lethal* force to overcome active or passive resistance to arrest or detainment.

      *there is no such thing as a certain non-lethal force option as even pepper-spray can theoretically kill someone due to a very unusual and bad reaction.

      • Translation: civilians are now expected to surrender and submit to all assailants and hope they are real cops.

        Why even carry a gun? Why even have 2A?

  12. The federal government is looking to dismiss the lawsuit though, focusing on previous issues Martin had had with the law.

    • The best argument that the federal government could make would be to claim that this incident occurred due to a previously undiscovered design defect. Doing so may result in the family suing Taser International over the defect that resulted in the unnecessary death of the victim. Such an argument would also necessitate getting rid of these defective Tasers.

    • The officers could probably claim that there is no way they could have known that this would happen. If anything this is a case of excessive force that turned into tragedy due to the victim being covered in gas. Also i doubt the cop that used the Taser would have knowingly put himself in danger by Tasering a person that he knew was covered in gas and therefore I believe if anything he used an inappropriate level of force for the situation.

  13. https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2014/apr/15/study-taser-shocks-may-cause-fatal-heart-attacks/
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2435092/Tasering-James-McCarthy-23-suffered-heart-attack-justified-says-police-watchdog.html
    http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-safety/security/pepper-spray3.htm
    Remember it should be called “less than lethal” not “non-lethal” use of force for good reason. People don’t realize there are times people can die from a simple punch to the face even (look up “knock-out game” deaths). That said even if you don’t agree with actions taken by police, it would appear to me that the cop wasn’t trying to intentionally kill or permanently injure anyone for whatever its worth.

  14. Unmarked police cars have red blue lights and sirens. Everyone has seen them. Why did he didn’t he stop? We will never know. Does the video show the plain clothes officers display their badges?

    • Implying amateur crooks can’t buy lights and sirens and install them on their cars and imitate the professional government crooks.

    • Right, just like the baby in Georgia got burned to a crisp because he had relatives who may or may not have sold drugs to a CI. Not because a cop tossed a flashbang in his crib.

      • The flashbang was the sole source of damage in the flashbang incident but in this Taser incident the Taser was not the sole source of damage since it ignited gasoline covered interior. If the driver had not been driving on the wrong side of the road than he would have not been Tasered.

        • Indeed. It’s almost as if the driver greatly contributed to his own death by driving the wrong way on the freeway doused in gasoline (or had a gas leak?) and then refusing to open his windows. What are the chances that driving the wrong way on the freeway could be dangerous? Pretty high, apparently.

  15. First these were federal agents, not police. Perhaps a semantic difference but a significant one because I have personally witnessed & charged police officers with criminal acts for both on and off duty actions. Second S. Tyr is partially correct when making the comment the “cops won’t be persecuted” for they are prosecuted, again perhaps a semantic difference but significant. I think Darren Wilson was persecuted and not guilty of murder. S. Tyr-Martin was not murdered, he died and sympathies to the family, again a semantic thing but very important. With your logic if a rancher raises cattle and someone chokes to death on a bite of steak the rancher murdered them. As to S. Tyr comment about unmarked cars the flashing red and blue lights are kinda hard to miss and in the dark you cannot see any emblem on the side of the cruiser and his comment on crooks buying red and blue lights, though true, does not hold for this argument because they were agents. Lastly for this post S. Tyr quoting the Politico for a reference is like trying to prove a point on global warming, correction climate change now, using Al Gore’s movie, oh and show the reference for your quote on the percentage of cases indicted being 99.99 .

    • What is 161989 out of 162000?

      http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/ferguson-michael-brown-indictment-darren-wilson/

      A few more points:
      – Darren Wilson was not even indicted, ergo he was not persecuted. There’s no semantics here. These federal agents will not be persecuted, bank on it.
      – Explain how Mr. Martin would know the plainclothes agents in an unmarked car running him off the road were government crooks as opposed to run-of-the-mill crooks.

      • He was making fun of you for saying persecuted instead of prosecuted. Jesus was persecuted. You want the cop prosecuted.
        There is so much bias and bigotry in your posts that my brain is starting to hurt. The logic is easy to follow yet you’re failing miserably. Don’t let hatred cloud your judgement or your judgement is useless.

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