Leaders call for reduced TASER use


CLEVE R. WOOTSON JR.
Staff Writer

Black leaders from the Charlotte area gathered in front of the Mecklenburg County Jail on Sunday to call on police and other authority figures to decrease their use of Tasers.

The press conference came after several incidents that the religious and community leaders called examples of excessive force. In July, a Lancaster County, S.C. jail inmate, Maurice Cunningham, was killed during an attack on guards. He was shocked with a Taser six times.

In late September, two Charlotte-Mecklenburg School students -- one at East Mecklenburg, another at Garinger -- were hit with Tasers.

The Rev. John Barnett, founder of T.H.U.G. (True Healing Under God) ministries, said the death and the shockings of school students pointed to something wrong.

"We're not trying to eliminate Tasing," Barnett said. "But we do have a problem with excessive force. Today, there's some excessive force going on. You're Tasing high school students, you're Tasing civilians."

Barnett brought the mother of one of those civilians to speak.

A couple of months ago, Clara Rudisill said her son was trying to enter an uptown nightclub. After a disagreement with the club's bouncers, she said the bouncers shocked him twice with a Taser, leaving wounds Rudisill says her son still carries today.

"We're not here to stir animosity for the Police Department," she said. "What we're saying is we want the city of Charlotte to revisit this issue. We're human beings for Christ's sake and we need to treat each other accordingly."

But the Taser has many advocates, including police officers who say the 50,000 paralyzing volts are better than the alternative -- a bullet.

"We have had officer-civilian encounters where officers actually shot and killed people where if we had a device such as the Taser, it may not have been necessary for that officer to take that person's life," said Norris Anderson, a retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department major.

"I'm not saying that the Taser is foolproof or anything, but when we look at the escalation of deadly force, it gives us another step before actually using a gun."

*Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: (704) 358-5065; cwootson@charlotteobserver.com (mailto:cwootson@charlotteobserver.com) *

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