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Texas Guard Killed by Riot Shield

Harry Landis, a 58-year-old Texas prison guard collapsed after being shocked by an electrified riot shield during a training session. Guards were being trained in the use of the "electronic capture shield" designed to subdue prisoners. The device delivers a shock of 40,000 to 50,000 volts of electricity through copper strips running the width of the shield.

According to prison spokesman David Nunnelee, use of the shields, which were first put to use against prisoners in September, 1995, was suspended until an investigation into the guard's death is complete. Nunnelee said that it is "highly unlikely" the electric jolts caused the guard's death.

Witnesses to Landis's death say that prior to the start of the training session he asked a question about how the shield might affect someone with heart trouble. Landis was told that "literature from the manufacturer indicates that the shield should have no effect on anyone with heart trouble or a pacemaker."

John McDermit, president of Nova Products, Inc., the Cookeville, Tennessee-based company that makes the shield, said prison officials had told him that Landis had a heart condition. "We're very sorry this happened," McDermit said. "But there certainly was no connection between his training" and his death.

An autopsy was conducted on Landis, but County officials declined to release a preliminary autopsy report because they "had yet to complete their inquiry."

Source: Houston Chronicle (12/02/95)

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