Judge moves Taser wrongful death suit closer to trial
SALT LAKE CITY — The family of Brian Cardall, who died after a Hurricane police officer twice stunned him with a Taser during a bipolar episode on a remote highway three years ago, might get their day in court.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups moved the family's wrongful death lawsuit closer to a trial Wednesday when he ruled that some of its claims should go before a jury.
Cardall's wife, Anna, who was at the scene of the incident, says in the suit that officer Kenneth Thompson should not have used his Taser on her unarmed and naked husband.
"If Brian was not a danger to anyone when he was tased, then a reasonable jury could characterize the tasing as an intentional wrongful act without just cause," Waddoups wrote.
The suit alleges wrongful death, use of excessive force, deprivation of constitutional rights and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A trial date has not been set.
On June 9, 2008, the Cardalls were driving through Washington County on state Route 59 when Brian Cardall began acting strangely. Anna Cardall pulled over to get his medication out of the trunk. He took the medication but refused to get back in the car and took off all his clothes. Worried that he might be hit by a car, she called 911.
In the background, Brian Cardall, 32, could be heard screaming and talking about meeting the president. He also kept running into the road acting as if he were directing traffic. Police dispatchers informed responding officers that they were going into a "psychiatric" situation.
When Thompson, in uniform, and Hurricane Police Chief Lynn Excell, wearing a polo shirt with a police logo, arrived, they saw Brian Cardall standing naked in the turnout where Anna Cardall had parked the car. After initially telling Brian Cardall to “come here,” Thompson told him to get down on the ground 13 times, according to court documents.
Brian Cardall's comments indicate he believed that Thompson intended to harm Excell, and he begged him not to shoot, court documents state. “This is a standoff. Don’t shoot him” and “Standoff. Don’t shoot him, guys."
What happened next, court documents say, is subject to conflicting witness statements.
Anna Cardall testified that her husband turned toward Thompson as though he were about to say something, and Thompson Tasered him. A passing driver stated that Brian Cardall took “one small step” toward Thompson. Thompson and Excell, however, stated that Brian Cardall “charged” at Thompson, closing the distance between them very quickly, and that Thompson was forced to deploy the Taser in self-defense.
"In any event, it is uncontroverted that Brian was tased approximately 42 seconds after officer Thompson’s first command to Brian, and that Brian was not given a warning about the taser prior to its deployment," Waddoups wrote in his ruling.
Some witnesses reported Brian Cardall tried to immediately get up, while others said he stayed on the ground. Two seconds after he used the Taser, Thompson deployed the device a second time.
Excell then handcuffed Brian Cardall. Before paramedics arrived, a third officer on the scene noticed that Cardall was not breathing and did not have a pulse. Paramedics worked on him at the scene and then transported him to a nearby hospital, where he died.
In addition to Anna Cardall, plaintiffs in the case are her daughters, Ava and Bella, and her husband's parents, Duane and Margaret Cardall.
Defendants are Thompson, Excell and Hurricane City.
The Washington County Attorney's Office cleared Thompson of any criminal wrongdoing.
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