Dozens march on downtown Fort Worth, protesting use of Tasers
Posted Saturday, Nov. 07, 2009

More than 50 people marched through downtown Fort Worth on Saturday calling for police to stop using Tasers and punish an officer involved in the April death of a mentally ill man.
The protest was organized by supporters of the family of Michael Jacobs, 24, who died after a Fort Worth police officer shot him twice with a Taser to subdue him. Jacobs’ death was ruled a homicide by the Tarrant County medical examiner and will be reviewed by a grand jury.
"I’m really grateful to this big old crowd for speaking on behalf of my son," said Charlotte Jacobs, Michael’s mother.

The protesters walked from the Fort Worth municipal building to the Tarrant County Courthouse carrying U.S. flags and signs, some of which read "Lazy Cops Taser" and "Tasers trample the Constitution."

The death occurred after police responded to a call from Jacobs’ parents that he was being disruptive. Police said the officer used the Taser after Jacobs became combative.
In his report, Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani found that Officer Stephanie A. Phillips shocked Jacobs twice with a Taser — once for 49 seconds and once for five seconds. According to the report, the officer told a detective that the first jolt was longer because "she unknowingly kept the Taser trigger engaged." She remains on active duty.

Jacobs’ family has filed a wrongful-death suit. Last month, an attorney for the family said witnesses have disputed claims that he fought with police.

On Oct. 16, Police Chief Jeff Halstead announced that his department had finished its investigation of Jacobs’ death and provided copies of the report to the FBI and Justice Department. He said officers would get more training in how to deal with mentally ill people and in the use of force.

The Rev. Kyev Tatum, president of the Fort Worth Tarrant County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and organizer of Saturday’s march, said that Tasers inflict cruel and unusual punishment on the community and that their use must stop.

Marching with Jacobs’ family on Saturday were several members of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the family of Noah Lopez. Lopez, 25, died after a Fort Worth police officer used a Taser on him in 2006. The medical examiner ruled that Lopez died from acute cocaine intoxication. His family sued the city last year, asserting that the Taser shock interfered with Lopez’s medical treatment and resulted in cardiac arrest.

"There’s got to be a safer way to subdue somebody regardless of what the situation is or isn’t," said Debra Lara, Lopez’s cousin.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
TRACI SHURLEY, 817-390-7641
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