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Man dies after police jolt him with stun gun

  • Story Highlights
  • Man dies after police use Taser device on him while breaking up fight in Maryland
  • Another man died in Canada last week after being shot with Taser gun
  • Amnesty International blames 150 deaths since 2001 on police stun guns
  • Taser International says many deaths involving stun guns have other causes
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(CNN) -- A 20-year-old man died Sunday after being shot with a Taser device during a scuffle with a sheriff's deputy in Maryland, a spokeswoman for the Frederick County Sheriff's Office said.

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Amnesty International blames dozens of deaths on police use of stun guns.

Cpl. Jennifer Bailey said deputies responding to a report of a fight in progress arrived at the location in Frederick, Maryland, just before 5 a.m. ET and found four people fighting.

A deputy used a Taser device on one of the men, who fell unconscious, Bailey said.

The man was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His identity was not immediately released, pending the notification of his family.

The deputy, who has not been identified publicly, has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the completion of an investigation, Bailey said.

Amnesty International has reported that, since June 2001, more than 150 people have died in the United States after being subdued with a stun gun. The organization has called for police departments to suspend use of the devices pending study of their possible risks.

Few have done so, said Amnesty, which added that more than 7,000 of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies use the devices.

Last month, a police officer in Vancouver International Airport in Canada used a Taser device on a distraught 40-year-old man on his first airplane trip outside Poland. He died.

In a statement released Friday, Taser International cited the Vancouver case and said it "appears to follow the pattern of many in-custody deaths or deaths following a confrontation with police. Historically, medical science and forensic analysis has shown that these deaths are attributable to other factors and not the low-energy electrical discharge of the Taser."

A bystander's video of the Vancouver incident that showed the victim continuing to struggle after being shot with the device "is proof that the Taser device was not the cause of his death," the company said on its Web site. Cardiac arrest caused by electrical current would have caused immediate death, it said.

In addition, "the video clearly shows symptoms of excited delirium, a potentially fatal condition marked by symptoms of exhaustion and mania such as heavy breathing, profuse sweating, confusion, disorientation and violence toward inanimate objects," the company said.

"We are taken aback by the number of media outlets that have irresponsibly published conclusive headlines blaming the Taser device and/or the law enforcement officers involved as the cause of death before completion of the investigation," said Tom Smith, the company's founder and chairman of the board.

But Amnesty International, noting that coroners have identified Tasers as a contributory factor in more than 30 deaths, said such a link cannot be ruled out.

The devices use compressed nitrogen to shoot two probes -- connected to the device by wire -- up to 35 feet away at speeds exceeding 100 mph.

An electrical signal transmitted through the wires contacts the body or clothing, "resulting in an immediate loss of the person's neuromuscular control and the ability to perform coordinated action for the duration of the impulse," according to the company. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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