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Police used Taser gun to subdue 6-year-old student wielding piece of glass

Miami Herald | November 12 2004

Miami-Dade police tasered a 6-year-old boy who was wielding a piece of glass in a school office and threatening to hurt himself, officials confirmed Thursday.

Police say they followed their own guidelines and only tasered the child because they were afraid he would hurt himself. But the incident has raised calls for the department tighten its policies regarding the use of the stun guns, which shoot 50,000 volts of electric current through a subject.

The incident happened on Oct. 20 at Kelsey Pharr Elementary School. The principal, Maria Mason, called 911 after the child, who has not been identified, broke a picture frame in the assistant principal's office. Then the boy began waving the piece of glass around, holding a security guard at bay.

Two Miami-Dade police officers responded, followed by a school police officer. When they got there, the boy already had a cut under his right eye and another on his hand from the glass. The three officers talked to the boy, trying to get him to put down the glass, according to a police report.

One of the officers slid a trash can to him, hoping he would throw the glass away if he didn't want to give it to any of the five adults there.

Then the officer contacted a supervisor to see if there was a policy specifically prohibiting the use of a stun gun on a child. There isn't, and the officer was told to do what she felt was necessary.

The two officers continued to try to talk to the child, who didn't respond.

Then he cut his own leg and the officers acted. One officer shocked him with the Taser while the other grabbed him, preventing him from falling on the ground.

The boy was treated by Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue at the school and taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was committed for psychiatric evaluation.

''By using the Taser, we were able to stop the situation, stop him from hurting himself,'' said police spokesman Juan DelCastillo. ``We inflicted no injuries on him. We were able to take him to the hospital and hopefully he's going to get the mental health attention he needs.

''Sure he could have been tackled and maybe injured, maybe his arm broken or maybe that glass could have cut him in a critical area,'' DelCastillo said.

Yet others in the community wondered why four adults -- the three officers and the security guard -- weren't able to control a 6-year-old without resorting to a stun gun.

Retired Broward County Juvenile Judge Frank Orlando, who now runs a law clinic on youth law at Nova Southeastern University, called the incident ``ridiculous.''

''It just sounds excessive to me to Taser gun a 6-year-old when everyone else around there were adults,'' he said. ``They couldn't subdue a 6-year-old? Must have been a pretty big kid.''

Police would not release any details on the size of the child. The department is reviewing the case.

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