Man dies after Vt. police use stun gun on him

By Lisa Rathke

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 21 2012 4:53 p.m. MDT

MONTPELIER, Vt. — A Thetford man died after being hit in the chest with a stun gun by a state trooper during an altercation, police said Thursday.

Macadam L. Mason, 39, was pronounced dead at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center on Wednesday. An autopsy was planned for Thursday to determine the exact cause of death.

Senior Trooper David Shaffer, 29, used the stun gun on the unarmed man after, agitated and uncooperative, Mason moved toward the trooper with a closed fist, yelling aggressively, police said.

Vermont State Police Sgt. Tara Thomas said the agency believes Mason is the first person to have died after being hit with a stun gun by a Vermont trooper.

A woman who answered the phone at Mason's home said the family was too distraught to comment.

Police responded to a report Wednesday from a hospital crisis worker that a man called in threatening to harm and kill himself and others. The man said he had weapons and was prepared to use them, police said.

When troopers arrived, they saw Mason inside, knocked on the door and asked him to come out to speak with them, but he refused, police said. Troopers called a family member of Mason's but when that person arrived, Mason ran into a wooded area behind the building. Search dogs were called in to help find him.

A couple of hours later, Mason returned but was uncooperative, police said. The trooper said he noticed that Mason was unarmed, so he lowered his gun and drew his stun gun, police said. He ordered Mason to the ground, and Mason lowered to a squatting position. When the trooper told him to get on his stomach, Mason stood up and came after the trooper, police said.

The trooper, who was about 10 feet away, continued to tell Mason several times to get on the ground, but he refused, police said. At that point, the trooper used the Taser, hitting Mason in the chest, police said.

Mason fell to the ground and was unresponsive. The trooper performed CPR on him until rescue personnel took over, police said. Mason was taken to a hospital in Lebanon, N.H., where he was pronounced dead.

TASER International Inc., which makes Tasers, recommends that, when possible, the devices not be shot at someone's chest. But the company also cites a U.S. Department of Justice report that found no conclusive medical evidence of a high risk of serious injury or death from short-term exposure to the barb of a stun gun by a normal, healthy person.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont said Thursday it is awaiting the results of the investigation, saying that Tasers can cause serious injury or death.

"They should only be used on a limited number of people; the barbs should not be shot at someone's chest because of the risk of causing heart problems," Allen Gilbert, the group's executive director, said.

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