A grief-stricken mom told lawmakers Wednesday night that Tasers kill. She lost her son to a trooper's Taser last year. Now, she joined advocates, speaking out for tough standards and a statewide policy.
"I want you to know about the person my son was, not just the name," said Rhonda Taylor, Macadam Mason's mother.
Taylor has stayed out of the spotlight since her son Macadam Mason was killed during a confrontation with troopers last year.
"So when you think of other incidents with Tasers– it's not a name that it affects. It's a person," Taylor said.
The medical examiner ruled the 39-year-old died from being tasered in the chest.
Mason's mother told lawmakers looking at tightening regulations for police Taser use that he would still be alive if troopers had called his mental health counselor to the scene. She said a car wreck years ago left him with a brain injury and seizures that probably made it tough for him to understand their commands. She showed lawmakers one of the artist's paintings that he gave her on Mother's Day last year.
"My son, Macadam Mason, was Vermont. He was so happy here," she said.
Advocates want a statewide policy on police Taser use, including officer training about people suffering from mental health issues and tighter restrictions on when officers can deploy them.
But law enforcement officials contend Tasers are nonlethal when properly used and actually save lives, allowing officers to subdue suspects without needing a gun.
Attorney General Bill Sorrell says a statewide policy could work, but an outright ban on Tasers would not.
"Particularly training for those who have mental health issues or cognitive impairment issues, I don't think law enforcement would have a big complaint about that. But calls for a moratorium or a ban on use of Tasers in Vermont-- that could lead to some very unfortunate circumstances," Sorrell explained.
State police started using Tasers two years ago. Since then troopers used stun guns 150 times, including 80 displays of the weapon and 70 deployments.