Police have acknowledged using a stun gun to immobilize a 12-year-old girl just weeks after an officer jolted a first-grader with 50,000 volts.
Police Director Bobby Parker defended the decision to use a Taser on the 6-year-old boy last month because he was threatening to injure himself with a shard of glass. But Parker said Friday that he could not defend the decision to shock the fleeing girl, who was skipping school and apparently drunk.
According to the incident report, officer William Nelson responded to a complaint that children were swimming in a pool, drinking alcohol and smoking cigars on the morning of Nov. 5.
Nelson said he noticed the girl was intoxicated and was walking her to his car to take her back to school when she ran away through a parking lot.
Nelson, 38, said he chased her and yelled several times for her to stop before firing the Taser when she began to run into traffic. The electric probes hit the girl in the neck and lower back, immobilizing her.
Nelson said he fired “for my safety along with (the girl’s) safety.” Paramedics treated the girl, who went home with her mother.
Parker said department policy permits officers to use the Taser to apprehend someone, but he said he expected his officers to use better judgment, especially when police had no plans to arrest the girl.
Stun guns increasingly common
The first incident had already exposed the department to more criticism for its use of Tasers, which it has begun distributing in greater numbers to officers.
The 6-year-old boy was shocked on Oct. 20 in the principal’s office at Kelsey Pharr Elementary School. Principal Maria Mason called 911 after the child broke a picture frame in her office and waved a piece of glass, holding a security guard back.
The boy had cut himself under his eye and on his hand when officers arrived.
“The police could have handled this better,” said the boy’s mother, Kathy Rojas. “They did not have to shoot him.”
Parker said that, in light of the disclosure of the second incident, the department will review its policy.