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Taser Va Suspends Use After Inmate Death 2001

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Virginia Suspends Use Of Stun Gun
The Hartford Courant



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May 18, 2001

Virginia prison officials have suspended the use of a
stun gun after an autopsy implicated the device in last
year's death of a Connecticut inmate at Wallens Ridge
State Prison.
The device, the Ultron II, was used on Connecticut
inmate Lawrence Frazier, 50, during an altercation with
guards last June. Although the state medical examiner's
office concluded Frazier died of natural causes, the
recently completed autopsy found that Frazier "died of
cardiac arrhythmia due to the stress of being restrained
after use of the Ultron II."
"Due to comments contained in the medical examiner's
report, the department is issuing a statewide moratorium
on the use of the Ultron II device," said Virginia
Department of Corrections Director Ron Angelone. "This
moratorium will remain in effect until issues regarding
the device are clarified."
The autopsy report differs from the findings of Dr. W.
Andrew Reese, who was retained by the Virginia
Department of Corrections shortly after the incident.
Reese attributed Frazier's death to a diabetic-related
cardiac arrest. Reese, who is not a pathologist and did
not perform Frazier's autopsy, ruled that the use of the
stun gun was not a factor in Frazier's death.
The autopsy results are bringing new life to calls from
human rights groups such as Amnesty International to
ban the use of electroshock weapons. Amnesty
International and other human rights activists have long
argued that the stun gun played a role in Frazier's death.
"While Amnesty International welcomes this belated
decision, it is of grave concern that Mr. Angelone
allowed the use of this weapon to continue for 10
months after it was implicated in the death of an inmate,"
said Jodi Longo, Mid-Atlantic regional director for
Amnesty International.

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And according to the group, inmates are still at risk
because the prison system will continue using tasers
that fire darts of electricity and stun belts that when
placed around an inmate's torso and activated by remote
control, can knock a person to the ground with an eightsecond burst of electricity.
Frazier, an insulin dependant diabetic, had been
suffering for hours from disorientation, seizures and
other diabetes-related symptoms before getting help
from prison officials.
In letters, inmates charge that guards delayed treating
Frazier so they could restrain him with handcuffs and
shackles before moving him from his cell to the infirmary.
According to inmates, Frazier and the guards became
involved in an altercation in his cell and in the infirmary.
Virginia prison officials said during a struggle in the
infirmary, Frazier, who had low blood sugar at the time,
was zapped with the stun gun and then placed in
Sometime after the struggle, they say, Frazier lapsed
into a coma. He died on July 4, several days later. He
was serving a 30-60 year prison term for a rape
committed in Westport in 1974.
Frazier was the second Connecticut inmate to die under
questionable circumstances at the facility. Inmate David
Tracy, 20, died after hanging himself last April, about
seven months before he would have completed a 21/2year sentence for selling drugs.
Dennis Kaufman, a company spokesman for Stun Tech,
which manufactures the Ultron II, said Thursday he
doubts the weapon was responsible for Frazier's death.
He said about 15,000 Ultron II devices are currently
being used nationwide. The Ultron II delivers 50,000
volts of electricity.
"And there's never been a death attributed or linked to
it," Kaufman said.
Connecticut officials sent about 500 inmates to Wallens
Ridge in 1999 to ease crowding in Connecticut. Most
Connecticut inmates are now being housed in the
medium-security Greensville Correctional Center in
Jarratt, Va.
The switch to Greensville came after Connecticut's
Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
investigated inmate complaints about the treatment at
Wallens Ridge and found troubling patterns at the
prison. The commission has twice called for the return of
the inmates to Connecticut.

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The FBI is investigating Wallens Ridge at the request of
the New Mexico attorney general. The inquiry was
sought after inmates from New Mexico complained
about beatings, misuse of stun guns and lack of medical

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