Thetford man died from Taser shock - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Thetford man died from Taser shock

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Macadam Mason Macadam Mason

A Vermont state trooper Tased a man in the chest -- and it killed him.

That was the conclusion of a medical examiner report released late Friday.

Macadam Mason died outside his Thetford home in June, after being Tased by Senior Trooper David Shaffer.  

Three months later -- the Medical Examiner ruled the electrical charge stopped Mason's heart.

"It is extremely rare not just in Vermont but nationally to see that the use of Taser is listed as the cause of death," said Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna.

State Police said Mason resisted arrest and acted aggressively before the trooper fired -- striking Mason in the chest. Witnesses say the father of three warned the trooper he had epilepsy. He had called a hospital asking for help - and was threatening suicide before troopers arrived. His family says he was suffering a mental episode and didn't understand the troopers orders.  

Mason's death prompted calls for a time out on Tasers until troopers get more training and a statewide policy on their use is in place.  Currently about 200 troopers carry the stun guns.

"I think police have to accept a Taser is a deadly weapon and that it should only be used when deadly force is justified. (Mason) was an upset infirm individual who had reached out to emergency personnel for help.  It's a sad tragic situation. Now State officials must begin the difficult work of determining whether a trooper should be charged with a crime for shooting him," said Allen Gilbert with the Vermont American Civil Liberties Union.

Mason's grieving girlfriend is suing State Police and the trooper. She wants damages and a change in police policy.

State Police would not speak on camera about the Medical Examiner's ruling.  But in an email released after business hours Friday, a spokesperson said it will be included in the criminal investigation.

Legal expert Cheryl Hanna says the coroner's report will likely lead to a statewide review -- and a legal settlement with the family.

"This report makes it much more likely that in the family's lawsuit against the state that they are much more likely to recover and the state will be more likely to settle a wrongful death action given this report," said Hanna.

Three years ago, Taser released a warning that the weapons should not be aimed at the chest. There is no state policy preventing troopers from tasing suspects in the chest area. We wanted to ask state officials about that, but the Governor's staff says he could not be reached Friday night and calls to the Public Safety Commissioner were not returned. A spokesperson for the state police said no one would go on camera until the Attorney General finishes his review of the incident

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