Fort Worth police use of Taser questioned after man's death

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram


FORT WORTH — Relatives are questioning the actions of Fort Worth police officers after a 24-year-old mentally ill man died Saturday shortly after being subdued with a Taser stun gun.
Police were called to a house in the 6200 block of Ava Court Drive in east Fort Worth about 10:30 a.m. by the parents of Michael Jacobs Jr., who said their son was causing problems, according to a statement from police.

When they arrived, Jacobs was in the front yard and uncooperative. When he became combative, an officer stunned him with a Taser, police said.

The officers planned to take Jacobs to John Peter Smith Hospital for a mental detention. He was handcuffed but began to have difficulty breathing, police said. He was taken to JPS, where he was pronounced dead about noon, according to the police statement.

Police are investigating the incident, and the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office will determine what caused Jacobs’ death.

Family members said police officers used excessive force to subdue Jacobs, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Charlotte Jacobs, Michael’s mother, says that her son was writhing on the ground and foaming at the mouth while he was being stunned and that she begged the officers to stop. Charlotte Jacobs also told police that her son was taking medications for his mental illness, relatives said.
"They have been to the house many times before, and they know Charlotte," said Helena Wigfall, 37, a cousin of Michael Jacobs. "That’s why we don’t understand why today was so different."

Kyev Tatum, pastor, said the Jacobs family would like an outside investigation as well as an autopsy from someone unaffiliated with the medical examiner’s office.

"The family believes it was a wrongful death," Tatum said. "The mother was making a cry for help, and it has turned into a Tasing death. There have been no answers as to why police used a Taser instead of the manpower that was available to them."

Wigfall said her cousin Michael was a small man, about 5 feet, 5 inches and about 150 pounds. The police had nothing to fear from him, Wigfall said.

"He was a very loving person," said Carol Morris, another cousin. "He was about my size. They could have thrown him to the ground and handcuffed him."

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead said Saturday evening that he could not comment on the incident until he is briefed by investigators, which he expects to happen Monday.
The use of Tasers, which deliver a 50,000-volt charge, has been controversial in Fort Worth and around the country.

Amnesty International reported this year that 351 people have died after being stunned with Taser guns since June 2001.

Taser International has been sued at least three times in Tarrant County for wrongful deaths. In two of those deaths, Medical Examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani has said he could not rule out the weapon as a contributing factor.

Peerwani has said he believes that Taser devices are safe when used on healthy people, but he has called for more studies of their effect on those who are on drugs, agitated or having heart problems.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.