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Friends, family mourn 'good kid' who died after Taser incident

  • Story Highlights
  • Jarrel Gray's uncle tells local media: "I lost my best friend"
  • Witness: Fight broke out after yelling match at apartment complex
  • Deputy who allegedly used Taser on Gray is on paid administrative leave
  • Amnesty International cites 150 deaths in asking police to suspend use of Tasers
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(CNN) -- Friends and family identified the 20-year-old Frederick, Maryland, man who died after police used a Taser stun gun on him Sunday morning, according to a local television station.

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Jarrel Gray, 20, died after police used a Taser gun on him Sunday morning, family and friends say.

The man, who friends and family identified as Jarrel Gray, was involved in a fight at an apartment complex about 5 a.m. Sunday, police said. Authorities have not released Gray's name.

"I haven't heard anything except that he's gone," Troy Thomas told WJLA-TV. Thomas, who said he was Gray's uncle, told the television station, "I lost my best friend."

Cassandra Rollings, a friend of the family, appeared at the apartment complex where Gray died, holding a large photo of the young man wearing a tie. Gray was a "very good kid," Rollings said.

Deputies responded Sunday morning to a report of a fight at an apartment complex and found four people in a scuffle, Cpl. Jennifer Bailey of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office said Sunday.

Eric Cargenas, a man who lives in the apartment complex and said he saw the fight, told WJLA that two people started fighting after a yelling match.

A deputy used a Taser on Gray, who fell unconscious, Bailey said. He was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

His body was taken to the medical examiner's office in Baltimore for an autopsy. The results of some tests could take several weeks, according to an office spokeswoman.

Baltimore is about 50 miles east of Frederick.

The sheriff's office has not publicly identified the deputy who allegedly used the Taser, but Bailey said the deputy was placed on administrative leave with pay while authorities investigate the incident.

Since June 2001, more than 150 people have died in the United States after being subdued with stun guns, according to Amnesty International, which has called for police departments to suspend use of the devices pending study of their possible risks.

More than 7,000 of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies use the devices, Amnesty says.

Recent deaths involving Taser devices have received much publicity. Last month, a police officer at Vancouver International Airport in British Columbia, Canada, used a Taser gun on a 40-year-old man making 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 October 14 incident in Vancouver shows the victim continuing to struggle after being shot with the device.

Taser International said on its Web site that the struggle "is proof that the Taser device was not the cause of his death." Cardiac arrest caused by electrical current would have caused immediate death, 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 determined Tasers were a contributing 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 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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