The parents of a man who died after being shocked with a Taser six times by DeKalb County police are suing the county and eight officers who the parents contend misused the weapon and killed their son.
A Taser, which uses 50,000 volts of electrical shock to immobilize a person, was improperly used against 29-year-old Audrecas Davis last May because he had done nothing wrong and wasn't resisting arrest, Jimmy and Annie Davis of Gwinnett County contend in the lawsuit filed last week in DeKalb County State Court.
Davis was suffering from a seizure and was at worst resisting medical treatment, the suit says. Police were called when paramedics had difficulty with Davis when he was suffering from a medical emergency.
"The officers used the (Taser) to intimidate and coerce Mr. Davis into submission and compliance with their requests so they could restrain him with the use of of handcuffs," the Davis lawsuit said. "He was helpless. It was not a serious incident relative to public safety or to the safety of others. Mr. Davis had committed no crime."
Last September, the DeKalb Police Internal Review Board cleared the officers, including Assistant Chief Frank Kliesrath, who first ordered using the Taser, of wrongdoing in the killing. Kliesrath was named in the lawsuit.
"I stand behind the use of the Taser as an alternative to deadly force," Chief William O'Brien said in September. "I know my officers followed the proper protocols."
On Monday, DeKalb Police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said O'Brien would not comment because of the lawsuit. She said Kliesrath was later demoted to captain but not because of Davis' death.
In July, the DeKalb medical examiner ruled Davis' death a homicide but the autopsy showed he may have been under the influence of marijuana and he had a prior medical condition, medical examiner Pat Bailey said at the time. The autopsy determined he died from cardiorespiratory arrest, and he also had caffeine and nicotine in his system. He also suffered from hypertension and sickle-cell disease, according to the medical examiner.
But the Davis' lawyer Robert Moss said the autopsy showed any marijuana use was not on the day of his death and tests revealed no other drug use. Moss cited the DeKalb County Police manual's policy on Taser use to argue there was no justification for using it against Davis, who was entitled to refuse medical treatment.
Medical evidence showed Davis had suffered a seizure, Moss said, and the police report described a disoriented Davis. "What did he do to be considered dangerous?" Moss said Monday. "My police procedure expert, a former GBI man, said there was zero reason for them to use a Taser."
The May 9 police report said officers responded to the Budgetel Inn & Suites on Chamblee Tucker Road. DeKalb Fire paramedics had called because of a "combative" man, who they had found unconscious in his feces on the motel room floor. Officers, the report said, saw foam coming from Davis' mouth.
Paramedics advised Sgt. Bernard Gailes and Officer Christopher Poythress that earlier Davis, who was then kneeling between two beds, "became violent" and broke free of the backboard on which he had been restrained to carry him to the ambulance.
Gailes tried to coax Davis from the room while Poythress covered him with a Taser. "Sgt. Gailes made numerous attempts to persuade Mr. Davis to walk out of the room with him so they could help him and advised they were here to help him," said the police report.
The report said the officers got Davis to the ambulance and he was calm until an officer tried to handcuff him to the stretcher.
"He became combative and stood up on the stretcher and began to flail his arms," the report said. The lawsuit said that Kliesrath ordered Officer Keith Cintron to use his Taser twice on Davis. Davis continued to resist, the report said. Gailes then ordered Poythress to use his Taser again.
"Mr Davis yelled, ‘OK, OK.' Nevertheless, Officer Poythress then shot Mr. Davis with a fourth, then a fifth and then a sixth 50,000-volt electric charge from his Taser."
The police report blamed Davis' "combative" behavior for the repeated use of the Taser.
"I advised Sgt. Gailes that I had gone through five cycles with the Taser and asked him, ‘Did he want me to tase him again?'" the officer wrote in the police report. "Sgt. Gailes said, ‘No, do not tase him again.' "
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