"They tasered a disabled man," Brittany Davidonis said.
Family and friends of Macadam Mason, 39, of Thetford, are outraged about his death. He died just minutes after he was tased by a Vermont State Trooper.
"He was unarmed. He had his hands up," said Davidonis, a friend of Mason.
The incident started at a home on Sawnee Bean Road in Thetford shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday. Mason reportedly called a crisis technician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center threatening suicide and harm against others. Shortly after troopers and family arrived he fled into the woods, but reappeared a few hours later. Senior Trooper David Shaffer realized Mason was unarmed, so he put down his patrol rifle and took out his Taser and ordered Mason to the ground. Police say Mason started to get down, but then got up and moved aggressively toward the trooper, coming within 10 feet.
"The trooper continued with the verbal commands to get on the ground. After several attempts to get Mr. Mason to comply, the trooper deployed his Taser and struck Mr. Mason in the chest," Vt. State Police Col. Tom L'Esperance said.
Mason died a few minutes later when he arrived at the hospital. His family said he warned the trooper he suffers from epilepsy and not to use the Taser.
"That's why we have to conduct a thorough investigation," L'Esperance said. "There is certainly a level of public trust and understanding when it comes to these devices, these tools."
L'Esperance says there are particular spots in the body were troopers are trained not to strike people, but the chest is not one of them. However, this incident will be reviewed for potential changes in policy, including using Tasers on people with mental health issues.
"Will there be changes? I don't know that yet," L'Esperance said. "We need to take a thorough look at the events that took place last night before we make that decision."
Family and friends say they will miss the man who loved to paint and tend his garden. He leaves behind three children. He never met his 18-year-old son. He was supposed to do that in a few days, but now Mason's son will never know his father.
"He was a good guy," Davidonis said.
The incident will also be reviewed by the Orange County state's attorney and Vermont attorney general.
Now 207 Vermont State troopers have Tasers. So far, they have had to use them 16 times this year, which is on par with last year. Troopers had to deploy them 32 times during 2011.
Senior Trooper Davis Shaffer is 29. He has been with the Vt. State Police for six years.