FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT FILED ON BEHALF OF JEFFERSON COUNTY MAN KILLED WHILE IN STATE POLICE CUSTODY
Suit also alleges negligence by Taser® International, Inc.,
for knowingly distributing defective Tasers that contributed to the death
HARRISBURG (Oct. 17, 2012) – The mother of a Jefferson County man who died at the hands of two Pennsylvania State Police troopers during a medical emergency has filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Barbara Wingard of Punxsutawney says that the Pennsylvania State Police and Taser® International, Inc., the company that manufactures the Tasers used by law enforcement agencies nationwide, are responsible for the death of her 36-year-old son, Troy Hooftallen.
On October 18, 2010, State Police and an ambulance were called to assist Mr. Hooftallen, after he became confused and disorientated while suffering from a negative reaction to medication.
“The two troopers teased and taunted Mr. Hooftallen until a physical altercation occurred,” said Devon M. Jacob, a national civil rights attorney representing Mr. Hooftallen’s mother. “At one point in time, Mr. Hooftallen was forced into a prone position, handcuffed, shackled, shocked repeatedly by a Taser, and asphyxiated, by having a knee pressed into his throat and his chest compressed. The witnesses state that after it was discovered that Mr. Hooftallen was in respiratory and cardiac arrest, the troopers called again for the ambulance that had not yet arrived but did not initiate CPR. Instead, they left him handcuffed and shackled and let him die.”
Jacob said that by the time medical personnel arrived and started CPR, it was too late. Mr. Hooftallen was transported to the hospital where it was discovered that he was brain dead. A medical examiner concluded, “Mr. Hooftallen died as a result of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease while being both physically and electrically (TASER) restrained during a physical confrontation with State Police.” “Mr. Hooftallen’s death should not have occurred,” said Jacob. “It was the direct result of excessive force and the denial of proper medical care.”
The Complaint also alleges negligence by Taser® International, Inc., of Delaware, a manufacturer of electrical control devices (ECDs) including the Taser that was used on Mr. Hooftallen. “About five years ago, Taser became aware that its products could cause ventricular arrhythmias, including potentially lethal ventricular fibrillation in humans,” said Jacob. “Yet Taser waited several more years before it even began to acknowledge the potential of its products to affect heart rhythms. They failed to provide essential training and sufficient warnings to law enforcement personnel. They failed to correct the known misconception that their products are less than lethal. Their conduct was motivated by a desire to increase profits with a complete disregard for the value of human life.”
The Complaint is filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.