On October 27, 2014, two former police officers pleaded guilty in federal court in Florence, South Carolina to using excessive force against a woman with mental disabilities. Eric Walters, 39, and Franklin Brown, 35, formerly police officers with the City of Marion Police Department in South Carolina, each pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law for using unreasonable force. Walters and Brown repeatedly tased the female victim, in spite of the fact that she posed no threat to either officer.
In the course of detaining the woman, Walters tased her. This caused the victim to fall to the ground and injure her head. Once on the ground, Walters continued to tase the woman multiple times.
The woman was then restrained in handcuffs and seated on the curb, surrounded by law enforcement officers. Brown arrived on scene and decided that it was a great idea to tase a sitting, handcuffed woman yet again. In court, Walters and Brown admitted there was no legitimate law enforcement purpose for repeatedly tasing the victim, since she did not pose a threat to the officers and wasn’t resisting. Both police officers were fired for their misconduct in using excessive force.
“The defendants abused their authority as law enforcement officers by repeatedly tasing a defenseless, compliant victim,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division.
“Law enforcement officers are entrusted with the state’s police powers to maintain and restore order,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles for the District of South Carolina, Department of Justice. “In this case, the officers abused that authority, and purposefully hurt the victim, who at the time posed no threat to these officers or anyone else … No just society can tolerate this sort of abuse by those who wear the badge.”
Walters and Brown face possible sentences of up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Taser-happy police officers have caused bodily harm and deaths of numerous victims across the nation. Israel Hernandez, a 18-year-old graffiti artist, died of heart failure after a Miami Beach Police officer shot him in the chest with his Taser. A 24-year-old man, Gregory Lewis Towns, Jr., was tased at least 13 times before he died in police custody in East Point, Georgia. Dante Parker of Victorville, California, whom detectives described as “not aggressive and not combative,” died in police custody after being tased “well over five times.” Reverend Earl Baldwin Jr. of Pittsburgh was pulled away and tased by the police in a hospital emergency room, while he was praying over the body of his dead stepson. Unless all responsible police officers are held accountable for their abuses, more casualties can be expected.