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Over half US Taser deaths were 'vulnerable' individuals, says report

Over half US Taser deaths were 'vulnerable' individuals, says report
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Over half of US deaths caused by being shocked by a Taser were 'higher risk' individuals, a Reuters investigation has found.

Taser makers Axon Enterprise Inc identified high-risk individuals as small children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with impaired heart function and those on drugs or alcohol.

Reuters found that of 1,028 cases of Taser-related deaths, often occurring along with other force, more than 50 percent were identified as falling into one of these groups.

"Nearly a third of the U.S. population is at higher risk of death or injury from Taser shocks," it said, "yet time and again, police continue to fire their stun guns at the vulnerable."

Police in Montana shocked Stanley Downen, 77, who had advanced Alzheimer's in June 2012.

The news agency is keeping a record in realtime of US deaths that occur in this way, most of which happened after 2010.

A large number of people included in Reuters' report had heart conditions or were in states that are sometimes, but not always, easy to identify, like being high.

It found 245 people were suffering heart conditions and 643 people were drunk or high on drugs.

Axon has warned since 2005 that people agitated or intoxicated by drugs may face higher risks of medical consequences from Tasers’ electrical current and Reuters' data underlined this risk, with more than 60 percent falling into this category.

Axon has called Tasers the “safest force option available to law enforcement”.

The company told Reuters its warnings and training “do not identify any population group as ‘high risk', rather, they recognize that certain people may be at increased risk during encounters requiring force, regardless of the force option chosen”.

Taser warnings to police included in Axon's training materials.

In warnings issued to police by Axon, it said “some individuals may be particularly susceptible to the effects” of its weapons and identified the list outlined above as “higher-risk populations”.