Family of man shocked 16 times suing Greenwood police

Originally Published in the Indy Star

The family of a man who died after being shocked with a Taser 16 times is suing the Greenwood Police Department. It’s the the first time someone in Indiana has died after a Taser was deployed in an arrest. Dwight Adams/IndyStar

The family of a man who died after being shocked 16 times with a Taser during an arrest last year is suing the Greenwood Police Department.

Charles Todero, 30, was shocked 16 times in three minutes, 10 seconds on May 29, 2016. Todero was hospitalized and died two weeks later.

“This extreme number of tases far exceeds the safety recommendations of the manufacturer,” attorneys Steven Art and Sam Heppell said in a news release Tuesday.

Todero’s family spoke to the media Tuesday outside the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis after their attorneys filed a lawsuit.

Teresa Todero said police body camera footage showed her son pleading with officers shortly before he went to the hospital, Fox59 reported.

“The last thing we heard him say was ‘I didn’t do anything.’ That’s just it. He didn’t do anything,” she said.

“I still can’t believe (he’s) gone. I’m absolutely crushed and broken inside,” James Todero, Charles’ older brother, said, Fox59 reported.

Greenwood’s attorney, Krista Taggart, said the city had not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit but she did review copies provided by media outlets.

“The city disputes many of the factual allegations contained in the complaint and denies all of its claims,” Taggart said in an email.

Police said Todero walked into traffic clutching a Bible and claiming he was Jesus Christ.

Greenwood Police Assistant Chief Matthew Fillenwarth told IndyStar in June that two callers told 911 dispatchers that they almost struck Todero with their vehicles as he darted into traffic on Madison Avenue, just south of Fry Road, at about 11:45 a.m.

Todero didn’t respond to police commands, was incoherent and was looking straight ahead, Greenwood Police Chief John Laut said in June.

Todero was walking into the street, police said, when Lt. Brian Blackwell used his Taser.

At the time, Greenwood Police issued a statement defending Blackwell and other responding officers.

“Based upon a review of evidence to date, we are confident the responding officers followed all standard operating procedures in dealing with this matter,” the department said.

Todero had just attended his father’s funeral and was overwhelmed with grief. The Bible he held that day was the one possession his father had left him, lawyers said.

Lawyers said Blackwell was familiar with Todero. Police Chief John Laut said in a June 15 news conference that Todero had been involved in 53 incidents with Greenwood officers and had been arrested 15 times since he was 13.

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“When Defendant Blackwell arrived on scene, Charlie was sitting on the curb reading the Bible,” the family’s lawyers said.

“Defendant Blackwell, who had interacted with Charlie many times in the past, knew him and engaged him in conversation. Charlie began to walk away from defendant Blackwell, and Blackwell shot him with his Taser.”

The family’s lawyers said Todero’s heart stopped minutes after he was shocked. Medics took him to the hospital, where they claim tests found Taser-related injuries including metabolic acidosis (when muscles release lactic acid that throws off the chemical balance in the blood), high blood potassium and kidney damage.

Todero suffered a dozen hearts attacks and massive organ failure before he died on June 11, lawyers said.

Chief Laut, in the June 15 news conference, said that doctors told police that Todero appeared to have died of natural causes, resulting from liver disease and hepatitis C.

Taser is the brand name of a device that incapacitates a person with a 50,000-volt shock. Law enforcement across the country consider the devices a less-than-lethal use of force, in the same category as batons or pepper spray.

Training material posted on Taser manufacturer Axon’s website indicates officers are cautioned to stop using the device beyond 15 seconds of exposure, or three 5-second shocks, “absent reasonably perceived immediate threat.”

Other materials encourage law enforcement to seek alternative methods of control if deploying the Taser is deemed ineffective.

Critics say the devices are deadly and have called for police to adopt stricter guidelines. Amnesty International found at least 670 Taser-related deaths since 2001.

While some individuals are more susceptible to the effects of a Taser, such as the young, the elderly and those with underlying heart or other medical conditions, a 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Justice states there is “no clear medical evidence” that there is a higher risk of injury or death associated with those exposures.

However, the DOJ also acknowledged in that study that the devices are most dangerous when used multiple times.


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