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Marchers protest inmate TASER death

Associated Press Writer

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga.- About 200 protesters marched through this Atlanta suburb Saturday, urging police to stop using stun guns like the one that shocked an inmate who later died.

Inmate Frederick Williams, 31, died in May 2004, days after Gwinnett County deputies shocked him with a Taser, a weapon that delivers a 50,000-volt shock to immobilize people temporarily.

The march was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which has documented more than 150 deaths nationwide that it attributes to Tasers.

The company that makes the stun guns insists they are safe.

"We're not going to tolerate another death in this country," SCLC President Charles Steele Jr. said as demonstrators rallied at the Gwinnett Justice Center. "It's not safe, and if we lose one life, it's one life too many."

A medical examiner ruled the cause of Williams' death inconclusive but multiple shocks from the Taser may have been a factor. In June, District Attorney Danny Porter denied a SCLC request to reopen the investigation.

"At this point, absent any new evidence, I don't see any need to reopen it _ certainly not because my name's being yelled at a rally," Porter said Saturday.

Other deaths of people shocked by Tasers have prompted some police departments to reconsider using the devices.

Arizona-based Taser International Inc. denies that its products are to blame, arguing that drugs, health conditions or other factors, not the electrical shock, have been the cause of such deaths. The company also contends Tasers have saved the lives of thousands of suspects who might otherwise have been shot by police.

The family of an Indiana man who died after being stunned by a Taser filed a lawsuit Thursday against the weapon's manufacturer and the Chicago Police Department. The Cook County, Ill., medical examiner's office concluded that Ronald Hasse, 54, died from electrocution, although it added that methamphetamine was a contributing cause.


On the Net:

Southern Christian Leadership Conference, http://www.sclcnational.org

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