Family and friends of 39-year-old Macadam Mason are still trying to come to grips with his tragic death.
"He was a good guy," said friend Brittany Davidonis.
The father of three died minutes after he was tased by Senior Trooper David Schaffer during a confrontation outside Mason's home in Thetford Wednesday evening. Police were called to the home after Mason made comments about suicide and threatened to hurt others in the process.
"He was unarmed, he had his hands up," said Davidonis.
Investigators say Trooper Schaffer was initially armed with his patrol rifle when he first encountered Mason. When the trooper realized Mason was unarmed, he put the rifle down and pulled out his Taser. Police say Mason then made aggressive moves towards the trooper so Schaffer fired his Taser hitting Mason in the chest. More than 200 Vermont troopers are armed with Tasers in an effort to de-escalate situations without lethal force.
"Our Taser policy includes verbal warnings to the person that is going to be the subject of the deployment to give the person time and opportunity to change their demeanor or aggressiveness," said Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn.
Witnesses say Mason warned the trooper he had epilepsy.
"They tasered a disabled man and killed him," said Davidonis.
"Police have to realize when they are using this weapons that they are using something that is not called safe, it's called less lethal by Taser International which means it is still potentially lethal," said Allen Gilbert of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In 2009. Taser International issued a warning about deploying a taser to someone's chest and recommended a lower preferred target area. In doing so, the manufacturer said avoiding chest shots avoids the controversy about whether tasers affect the human heart.
"You have to take into account the weapon has been implicated in a number of deaths, whether the Taser was the actual cause of the death or it lead to something else that caused the death is in dispute in a number of cases," said Gilbert.
Vermont State Police say they do not have a policy regarding tasing someone in the chest, but say this incident, like each time a Taser is deployed, will be reviewed.
"We will look at this to make sure our policy is up to date, that our policy is consistent with what the standard practices are, that we are given the proper training that is needed," said Flynn.
The autopsy report on Mason is not complete, so it remains unclear what role, if any, the Taser played in his death.
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