Caught On Camera: Woman Goes Into Cardiac Arrest During Traffic Stop

CBS News | November 19, 2012
By Randy Paige

ENCINO (CBS2) — A video taken by the California Highway Patrol may be the first time a camera has captured all of the events leading up to a cardiac arrest following the use of a TASER® electronic control device.

On June 4, CHP officers stopped to check on the welfare of 50-year-old Angela Jones after finding her sitting in a parked vehicle on Haskell Avenue, near the Ventura (101) Freeway.

A camera mounted on the officers’ car captured the incident.

“How much have you had to drink tonight?” an officer asked the Studio City resident.

“Nothing,” Jones said.

“Nothing?” the officer responded. “What about medication or drugs?”

Officers questioned Jones for 15 minutes, suspecting she might be under the influence, and then asked to look through her purse.

“I just don’t feel like I want you to take my purse from me,” Jones said.

She held her purse tightly to her chest and ran back to her vehicle.

According to the arrest report, the CHP officer hit the trigger on his TASER® X-26 TM three times, sending three separate jolts into Jones’ chest.

“Do not move! Do not move! Stop moving!” the officer can be heard yelling.

The officers then pulled the driver out of the car, placed her on the sidewalk and realized she wasn’t breathing.

“Do you have a pulse?” one officer asked.

“Subject is unresponsive,” the other officer said.

One officer began performing CPR and Jones was revived.

Heart surgeon Dr. Kathy Magliato said Jones is lucky to be alive.

“It’s really critically important that law officers understand that this TASER is a weapon and it can kill people,” said Magliato, who also serves as president of the American Heart Association for greater Los Angeles.

Magliato told CBS2’s Randy Paige, “It’s awfully hard, Randy, exonerate the TASER when you see a woman who clearly was fine up until the point she was TASERed, and, then, becomes unconscious, loses her pulse and, then, is in sudden cardiac death.”

The video camera recorded the episode for 40 minutes. It’s likely the most complete record of the events leading up to a cardiac arrest following the use of a TASER electronic control device. However, it wasn’t the first time a similar incident was captured on video.

In March 2008, store security cameras in Charlotte, North Carolina captured 17-year-old Darryl Turner as police deployed a TASER model X-26 and electrocuted him following an argument with a store manager.

The teenager collapsed just off camera and later died.

Pasadena attorney John Burton represented the Turner family in a civil trial where the jury awarded $10 million in damages. He is now preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Jones.

“This device, the TASER as it’s called, is much more dangerous than the company indicates and that police believe, especially when it’s shot in the chest, the electric current can take over the heart rhythm and cause cardiac arrest,” Burton said.

TASER International disputes this claim on their website: “There is no reliable published data that proves TASER ECDs negatively affect the heart.”

TASER International refers to medical studies that conclude its devices do not harm the heart.

Nonetheless, the company changed its targeting guidelines in 2009, urging users to avoid strikes to the chest.

Dr. Magliato strongly disagreed with TASER International’s findings.

“Absolutely not, absolutely not,” Magliato said. “We have an article right here from circulation which comes out of one of the most prestigious cardiovascular journals in the country, that’s put out by the American Heart Association. This article discusses eight cases, eight cases where people were TASERed went into this ventricular fibrillation rhythm, seven of which died, so how can you tell me that using a TASER is completely benign — especially when you have it on videotape?”

Jones’ attorney Maria Cavalluzzi said her client now has many memory deficits and cognitive issues after the incident.

Cavalluzzi would only let Jones speak briefly due to the pending criminal charges, but the Studio City resident spoke just long enough to describe what little she remembers from the night of the traffic stop.

“Do you remember what it felt like when that TASER hit?” Paige said.

“I can remember fear,” Jones said.

Cavalluzzi said toxicology reports show there were no illegal drugs or alcohol in Jones’ system that night. Jones is facing criminal misdemeanor charges for resisting arrest and an infraction for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

The  CHP declined CBS2’s request for an on-camera interview and offered a written statement which said, in part:

“The use of the TASER in this incident appears to be within CHP policy. Appropriate charges were filed against Miss Jones. To avoid interfering with the successful prosecution of this case, we have no further comment at this time.”

TASER International also provided a written statement:

“We are concerned about this incident and eagerly await more information as its becomes available since it’s speculative if not impossible to make a medical diagnosis from a YouTube video in which we can’t see what exactly occurred or know the condition of the suspect during the medical response.

“No use of force is risk free, but medical experts have concluded that TASER technology is among the most effective response to resistance tools available today.  A U.S DOJ’s five-year study further states, ‘There is no conclusive medical evidence in the current body of research literature that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term (TASER) CED exposure in healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons.

“It’s important to remember that more than 98,000 people have been saved from potential death or serious injury using TASER devices – an astounding number that would more than sell out the Rose Bowl.”

Despite TASER International’s targeting guidelines, CBS2 has learned that use of force directives for the CHP, LAPD and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department do not instruct officers to avoid direct strikes to the chest.