Graphic video footage released Wednesday of three Virginia police officers repeatedly tasing a man who later died in their custody has brought renewed attention to the use of stun guns in law enforcement.
The video shows the officers in South Boston, Va., repeatedly shocking Linwood Lambert Jr. multiple times while he is handcuffed, outside of a hospital where the officers had initially taken him for medical help.
The incident occurred in May 2013, but a MSNBC report that aired Wednesday was the first time the new footage has been publically released. It’s the latest example of a policing paradox that has civil rights advocates alarmed: stun guns are supposed to prevent the use of deadly force, not become another source of it.
Yet an investigation by the Associated Press in April detailed at least eight fatal stun-gun shootings of black men by police in confrontations in recent years.
These immobilizing weapons are useful, but can give officers "a really false reassurance that you have more control over a situation than you do," Eugene O'Donnell, a former New York City police officer, told the AP.
The newly released footage shows police picking up Lambert in the early morning after receiving a noise complaint from the motel he was staying in. The officers, who were not named in the lawsuit, took him to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.
When they arrived at the hospital, Lambert kicked out the window of the police cruiser and ran toward the emergency room doors. The officers chased after Lambert and shocked him repeatedly.
MSNBC reported that the three officers discharged their stun guns 20 times over about 30 minutes.
"Why are you trying to kill me, man?" Lambert says while lying on the ground.
Mr. Lambert's family filed a $25 million lawsuit in April, accusing the officers of unlawfully arresting him and using "excessive, unreasonable, and deadly force."
The family’s attorney, Joe Messa, told CNN he couldn't believe what he was seeing on the video.
"It's outrageous. It's uncalled for," he said. "It's the kind of thing that shocks your conscience, and it shocks my conscience as an attorney and should shock the conscience of the public."
Lambert told the officers in the video that he did cocaine and an autopsy report said he died of "acute cocaine intoxication." He was not armed and not accused of any crime.
Defendants, including the officers and the town, have denied the family’s allegations. No one has been charged in Lambert's death. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.