Police: Taser shock caused Thetford man’s death
Staff and Wire Reports | September 29,2012
THETFORD — Vermont State Police say a Thetford man who was shot with a stun gun by a trooper died of a heart attack caused by the shock.
Police said Friday that the death of 39-year-old Macadam Mason in June is the subject of a criminal investigation and was classified as a homicide.
Police said other factors in the death include heart disease and excited delirium syndrome, according to the New Hampshire chief medical examiner’s office.
The autopsy report and criminal investigation will be submitted to the Vermont attorney general’s office and Orange County state’s attorney’s office for independent reviews, the state police said.
Mason called a crisis line on June 20, indicating he might harm himself or others.
Police have said they went to Mason’s home after receiving a call from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center about a man in crisis. The police went to check on his welfare and found Mason in his home. They asked him to come out and speak with them, but he refused.
He later ran into the woods and was moving between his home and the woods for several hours, police said.
Eventually the police found him outside and ordered him to the ground. He refused, and police said he ran at one of their troopers aggressively with a closed fist and was shot in the chest with a Taser.
He was pronounced dead at a New Hampshire hospital.
The trooper who fired the Taser was David Shaffer, 29, who has been with the state police for over six years. A state police spokeswoman said Shaffer was placed on paid leave for three days after the incident.
The state police policy says Tasers “may be used on individuals who are actively resisting, or posing a risk of injury to themselves or others.”
Mason was hit in the chest by the Taser, but the manufacturer Taser International suggests avoiding the chest. The state police policy for Tasers says the “preferred target area” is the “lower center mass of the subject’s front side.”
A widely cited study by Amnesty International released several years ago found hundreds of people had died after the use of Tasers, though not all of the deaths could conclusively be linked to the Tasers.
Mason’s death led a group of mental health advocates and civil libertarians to call for a moratorium on Taser use by law enforcement in Vermont.
The advocates called for a suspension of Taser use until a statewide policy is implemented that says when and how to use a Taser and formalizes a standard use of force.
Allen Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said at the time that Mason should not have been shot with a Taser because he had a disorder, epilepsy, that the police knew about beforehand and that he should not have been shot in the chest.
The Vermont State Police said after Mason’s death that the agency has a committee that evaluates each use of force, including Taser usage, and the incidents are reviewed by the State Police Advisory Commission, a citizen board.
Police said the autopsy report will not be made public because it is part of a criminal investigation.