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VIA TAMPABAY.COM

Late one night in October, a 17-year-old on a bike was chased by a police officer in a cruiser. When the boy refused to stop, the officer aimed his Taser out the driver’s window and fired. The boy fell off the bike and the cruiser ran over him, killing him.

Victor Steen was the fourth person who died in Florida in 2009 in an incident in which a Taser was used. It was the 57th such death since 2001, according to statistics compiled by Amnesty International and the St. Petersburg Times. At the time this placed Florida first in the nation as the state with the most fatalities related to Tasers, a weapon that delivers an incapacitating electrical jolt.

Number 54 was a mentally ill man in Fort Lauderdale who was hit with a Taser in April as he wandered in traffic, refusing to go with police. He had a heart attack and died at a hospital.

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Number 55 occurred in Bradenton one week before Victor’s death. Police tried to stop him because he didn’t have a light on his bicycle. When he ran, police hit him with a Taser. He died within 35 minutes. The autopsy showed heart disease and a small amount of cocaine in his system.

Four days later, police in Panama City fired a Taser ‘at least twice’ at a man who tried to conceal cocaine by swallowing it. He went into cardiac arrest and died.

Taser International, the maker of the weapon, denies that these deaths were caused by its product. Yet, these four unconnected cases illustrate a worrisome trend in Taser use.