When an Oglala Sioux Tribal police officer used her Taser several times on a man lying helpless on the ground in Manderson on Friday afternoon, she was trying to get the man "to wake up and stand up," Ron Duke, chief of the OST Department of Public Safety, said Monday.
The man, Duke said, was "lying on the ground, probably passed out, clearly intoxicated."
The incident was caught on camera by a passerby who taped the officer repeatedly zapping the man who appears to never resist, defend himself or make any threatening moves.
An expert in Tasers said using the shocking device is exactly the wrong way to get someone who is unconscious or lying down to stand up and respond to orders.
"You can't resist if you're unconscious," said Chuck Drago, of Oviedo, Fla., who has 35 years of experience in law enforcement and has testified as an expert witness more than 30 times.
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"If the person is not resisting," Drago said, "there is absolutely no reason for force."
Both the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are investigating the incident. Kyle Loven, chief division counsel for the FBI Division in Minneapolis, said the FBI is doing its own investigation, not a joint investigation with the BIA.
Duke said the officer, Corporal Becky Sotherland, used the Taser on the man "probably" more than five times. He did not have an exact number of Taser uses, but he said he doubted Sotherland used it more than 10 times.
Eventually, according to the videotape of the incident, onlookers helped Sotherland place the man in the police vehicle.
Sotherland, Duke said, has been with the force for about 2 1/2 years; she is from Hot Springs.
The man, whose last name Duke said he could not recall, was in the Pine Ridge jail Monday afternoon, where he has been held since his arrest on suspicion of disorderly conduct, trespassing and resisting an officer. On Saturday, the man asked for medical attention, and he was evaluated. Duke said, "the hospital determined he was OK."
There is more than one video of the incident, Duke said. Sotherland had a camera on her uniform, he said, so that will give a different view from the one taped by the passerby.
Duke said the department has policies for the use of Tasers and for the use of force, but he would not comment on whether Sotherland's use of the Taser was a violation of either policy.
The passerby's video of the incident has been posted on You Tube. It shows Sotherland using the Taser on a man on the ground alongside her police vehicle behind a building. The video included the voices of onlookers who were both narrating and challenging Sotherland's continued use of the Taser.
In the video, which Duke confirmed was that of the Friday incident in Manderson, a voice, apparently Sotherland's, urged the man to stand up, saying, "Hurry up, get in the car before I get you again."
In comments heard on the video, the onlookers clearly were dismayed. One of the onlookers said to Sotherland, "Let him go, stop Tasing him."
Officials with the tribe, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the OST Department of Public Safety met Monday morning to discuss the incident, according to a statement by the tribe. The statement said there will be a follow-up meeting this week.
Sotherland has been placed on paid leave until the investigations are complete, Duke said.
Drago, who runs Drago Professional Consultants in Florida and has been a police officer, police chief and senior law-enforcement adviser to the governor of Florida, said using a Taser to get an unconscious, unresponsive person into a vehicle is not a valid tactic "in the wildest stretch of the imagination."
Drago said he had not seen the video, but he added that in a situation of a person who is unconscious and not resisting, a police officer "should have been calling for an ambulance."
Contact Jim Stasiowski at 394-8426 or email@example.com