Published Date: 06.05.2015
Police were justified in using Taser against a man who had a sword and who had stabbed himself in the neck and chest, an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has concluded.
The incident happened in the Dundonald area on 28 April 2014 after police received 999 calls from a distressed woman who reported that someone was causing self harm.
All discharges of police firearms are automatically referred by the police to the Police Ombudsman’s Office for independent investigation.
Recordings of the emergency calls were examined by Police Ombudsman investigators who noted that shouting and screaming and the noise of items being smashed could be heard in the background.
When interviewed, officers told Police Ombudsman investigators that when they arrived at the scene they heard the sound of breaking glass from inside a house, saw a car with a broken window parked outside and then found a woman and a man in separate rooms. The man had a sword which he thrust at officers while shouting “I will stick this in you.”
An officer said he grabbed the woman by the wrist and took her out of the house, while another sprayed the man with CS Spray and told him to get back. The officers also drew their guns.
The man was reported to have come out of the house on several occasions, waved the sword and shouted at police to shoot him. CS Spray was used for a second time when he rushed at an officer.
Armed Response officers arrived and tried to negotiate with the man, who they said was highly agitated and repeatedly shouting “just shoot me.” One officer said the man was almost foaming at the mouth and appeared to be under the influence of “some sort of drug.”
Officers recalled that he was using pieces of broken plate to cut himself and that his hands were covered in blood and his face was cut. He was also reported to have twice picked up a knife before setting it down again, and asked for his mobile phone to make “one last call”.
An officer discharged Taser when the man started to strike what appeared to be a broken piece of plate against his throat and chest.
The discharge was ineffective and a second officer fired another discharge when the man continued to cause self harm. This also failed to take full effect, but as the man tried to retreat through a doorway an officer grabbed the door and held it open, allowing a colleague to discharge a third Taser.
This discharge was effective and allowed officers to restrain him and paramedics to provide treatment.
The man later told Police Ombudsman investigators that he had no complaint to make against police, who he said had just been doing their job. He admitted to having used an antique sword to smash items of property and confront police, and to having asked them to shoot him.
Police records indicated that the Taser discharges were made 10 to 15 minutes after the use of CS Spray. The spray is flammable, and officers are trained about the risk of using Taser after the spray has been used. However, the decision to use Taser is at the discretion of the officer given the circumstances and the relative risk of using the weapon and choosing not to.
Having reviewed the evidence, Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire, concluded that the use of Taser had been justified and proportionate and had undoubtedly prevented the man causing further injury to himself.