Civil Liberties

Sleeping Man Tasered in His Own Home

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Earlier this year, North Braddock, Penn. resident Shawn Hicks came back from a night out and plopped down on his own couch in his own home. Unfortunately, he failed to deactivate the silent alarm on his home security system. According to Hicks, two police officers responded to the alarm, entered his home, and woke him with a taser between the shoulder blades. When Hicks tried to explain that the whole thing was a misunderstanding, and that the officers were in his own home, they tasered him again. They next checked his wallet and ID, which confirmed his name and address. Then they tasered him again. The police then removed the taser pellets from Hicks' bloody back, refused to get him medical treatment, and arrested him for "being belligerent." They threw him in a holding cell until 5 am the next morning, when they released him without filing any charges.

You know what happened next. The police department suspended the officers who tasered Hicks without pay while they conducted a thorough investigation. The chief then had them arrested for assaulting Hicks with their tasers, falsely arresting him, and violating his civil rights. The two officers were fired from the police force, then charged, convicted, and given lengthy prison terms.

Just kidding. They were cleared of any wrongdoing.

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  1. You know what happened next…Just kidding.

    Damn. For a minute there I actually had some hope for this nation’s future.

  2. ARGH!

    Dammit. Fell for it, too.

  3. My eyebrows lifted at “without pay” by the time I got to “arrested” I knew the “just kidding” was coming.

    Once again, Radley ruins my whole day with his morning posting. Thank you Mr. Balko. It’s a pity you haven’t ruined more peoples’ day.

  4. At least they only used tasers, ten years ago they would have had to shoot a man sleeping in his own home in the back.

    And for the LEO cheerleaders that always show up, here’s a handy template of terms:

    “It was an isolated incident.”

    “A few rogue officers…”

    “All the cops I know are…”

    “We don’t know the whole story yet.”

    “He might have threatened to the officers with his snoring.”

  5. “They next checked his wallet and ID, which confirmed his name and address. Then they tasered him again.”

    I know that is not supposed to be funny, and I realize that this incident is a terrible thing, but for some reason those two sentences just got my funny bone.

  6. “Suspended without pay” I believed, but by sentence 2, you had pushed it too far to get me to bite, Mr. Balko.

  7. So wait a second. It’s police policy to taser sleeping burglars (which is what they percieved him to be–at first)? Really?

    When I first saw “non-lethal” weapons come out, I thought that it would set a bad precedent for self-defense, in that people would say “why should you be able to defend yourself with lethal force if you have non-lethals at your disposal?” It would blur the lines between force and incapacitation.

    I didn’t imagine–but should have–that it would be the police who would use these items to increase their brutality because it isn’t lethal, by…blurring the lines between force and incapacitation.

  8. Goddamit, even if he was acting belligerently, so what? He’s entitled to do that IN HIS OWN FREAKIN’ HOME, isn’t he?

    I hope to God he files a civil rights lawsuit. If he’s a minority, it should be a lay-down win. Sadly, if he’s white, he’s got a much steeper hill to climb.

  9. R C-

    As much as he deserves to win a suit, he might want to relocate to a different jurisdiction before filing a suit….

  10. Also, this is an interesting datum to use when thinking about whether you might want to get an alarm system. I am more inclined towards the shotgun system myself, especially after this.

  11. He will definitely get a lot of money for this

  12. I frequently assume that men who broke into a house did so to sleep on someone’s couch, and they are extremely violent.

  13. That was a cruel ending. Nicely done.

  14. I frequently assume that men who broke into a house did so to sleep on someone’s couch, and they are extremely violent.

    I frequently assume that no matter what the situation, the police are extremely violent.

  15. When I read stuff like that, I’m always curious to hear the policemen’s version of the story.

    Not because I think it’ll explain things, just because I’m curious to know how they can rationalize shit like this.

  16. A staff member at the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, Mr. Hicks counts himself on the side of the law-abiding citizen.

    And his crime? Why, sleeping while black.

  17. I hope to God he files a civil rights lawsuit. If he’s a minority, it should be a lay-down win. Sadly, if he’s white, he’s got a much steeper hill to climb

    The first article says he’s a member of the African-American Chamber of Commerce. I’m usually not one to blame all problems on race, but racism would explain why the cops treated the man like a burglar long after he proved he wasn’t.

  18. He had it coming. The nerve of that guy, having a security system when there are plenty of competent police officers to protect homeowners from burglars.

  19. I know that is not supposed to be funny, and I realize that this incident is a terrible thing, but for some reason those two sentences just got my funny bone.

    No worries, it made me chuckle too. Gallows humor, I suppose. In my mind the exchange went like this:

    *ZAAAAAP* “AAAAGGGGH!”

    “Check his wallet.”

    “Hey, this is his house. He’s supposed to be here.”

    *ZAAAAAP* “AAAAAAGHHHH!”

    “That’ll teach you to be a smart-ass.”

  20. This is like the Chappelle joke.

    He’s still here! *knock*

  21. The problem is, it is an isolated incident. Police departments should investigate and punish each isolated incident. After all, even if the victim doesn’t belong to a group, civil rights violations are not acceptable. Unfortunately, the group justice mentality is big on groups and low on justice. A thousand unrelated taser cases won’t get a reaction. If a lone police officer tasered three people because he hates red belt wearers, it would make the national news.

  22. I’ve seen this before. This n*gger broke into the house and hung up pictures of his family everywhere.

  23. Episiarch –

    Right, exactly. Because the force isn’t lethal, it’s routine force protection.

    LEO safety is increased marginally if they simply taser every citizen they encouter, including sleeping guys, and sort it out later.

    When the force available was a gun, there was pressure on the cops to be in a position to justify their force with a threat to the officer’s life – the suspect having a gun, a knife, trying to hit the officer with their car, etc. Now the standard is “the suspect didn’t respond properly to direction” which can mean anything from someone asking what law they’ve broken to sleeping on the couch and not waking up fast enough.

  24. I once had an alarm system on my warehouse building. I had to go fill out the form to let the local police dept. know I had an alarm. Under “special instructions” I joked with the secretary that I could put do all kinds of things with this space. The secretary said the funniest thing she ever saw there was “DO NOT SHOOT – OWNER IS BLACK”. This story just reminded me of that one, unfortunately.

  25. IIRC, Reason was squeamish about non-lethal force creep like this back when these technologies were introduced.

  26. “They next checked his wallet and ID, which confirmed his name and address. Then they tasered him again.”

    I know that is not supposed to be funny, and I realize that this incident is a terrible thing, but for some reason those two sentences just got my funny bone.

    I said it on another thread (also about PA) – this is why satire is dying in this country. If you made up shit like this, no one would believe you.

  27. Oh, and I guess I should mention that some forces don’t even limit themselves to tasering for some very low force protection threshold.

    There are some departments where the use of the taser is permitted to “obtain compliance”. Translated, that means that if you don’t want to do what the police tell you and you go limp on the ground, they can torture you until you do what you’re told.

  28. I do believe the only thing that can top this is Radley’s inevitable headline:
    COPS TASER, ARREST CORPSE AT WAKE

  29. There’s some guy with a libertarian podcast, calls himself “Cato.” He did a show about non-lethal weapons. One of his qualms was the willingness to use them. I dunno. Ya think mebbe he had a point?

  30. joe,

    I just did a spit take all over my monitor and keyboard.

    Thanks for the levity.

  31. At least they only used tasers, ten years ago they would have had to shoot a man sleeping in his own home in the back.

    In 2001, in Indianapolis, a Marion County Sheriff killed a man named John Leaf in very similar circumstances. Leaf came home drunk (in a cab) and broke a window to get into his home.

    I suspect Mr Balko is more familiar with the details than I.

  32. Just kidding. They were cleared of any wrongdoing.

    And I was this close to a “It’s about freaking time that they got what they deserved!” and then…

    Cruel, Radley.

  33. Just kidding. They were cleared of any wrongdoing.

    Radley, you can be a prick sometimes. 😉

  34. Taser first and ask questions later.

  35. to add insult to injury, he’ll probably be charged a fee for the police responding to a false alarm

  36. [T]his is an interesting datum to use when thinking about whether you might want to get an alarm system.

    I think it’s an argument against getting a silent alarm system. If Mr. Hicks had realized before he went to sleep that he had tripped his own alarm, he probably would have avoided a police encounter.

  37. Dammit. Fell for it, too.

    Dammit, me too.

  38. Ah, you almost got me there, Radley…

  39. What would be the benefit of a silent alarm system in your home? I can see having one at a company or warehouse, so that the cops can possibly catch the trespassers. I would imagine, however, that you would want an alarm to scare off intruders to your home (especially when you’re sleeping).

  40. For interest here is the original story which tells the full tale. I didn’t see it above, but if I missed it please excuse the redundancy.

  41. Dammit. Fell for it, too.

    “You know what happened next.” Should have been your first tip.

  42. Warren – true.

    Shawn Hicks is probably a Cleveland Browns fan.

  43. Then they tasered him again.

    …and…a…BOOT to the head!!

  44. Just kidding. They were cleared of any wrongdoing.

    Perhaps they were cleared of any wrongdoing because they didn’t commit any wrongdoing?

    I don’t know, but there is at least a possibility that being a police officer does not mean that you are guilty of everything you are accused of. Right?

  45. Brings new meaning to ‘Innocent until proved guilty’.
    On the plus side he’s lucky they’d introduced tasers at that stage; had they not they would have shot him dead.

  46. Perhaps they were cleared of any wrongdoing because they didn’t commit any wrongdoing?

    Really? Lighting the dude up again after they had verified he lived there is not considered wrong doing? Lay off the fucking crack, moron.

  47. And the 3rd instance is besides the point. They had no cause to taser him the first time.

  48. Dan T,

    I know you are just trolling, but there is more than enough evidence for an indictment. Especially considering the “ham sandwich” clause. They shouldnt be found guilty of anything yet, but I would like to see them face a jury of their peers (by which I mean 12 members of the African-American Chamber of Commerce).

  49. When I read stuff like that, I’m always curious to hear the policemen’s version of the story.

    Not because I think it’ll explain things, just because I’m curious to know how they can rationalize shit like this.

    It’s very simple. Here, I’ll explain: Cops can do whatever they want, to whomever they want, for whatever reason they deem is appropriate.

    If a someone who is not a police officer (a “civilian” in cop-speak) disagrees with someone who is a police officer, the police officer is always right. Always.

    Police officers are not subject to repercussions for their actions, except on the rare occasion when a “rogue cop” is caught red-handed overstepping his bounds, and his superiors can’t spin the story in his favor.

    Police officers are always entitled to err on the side of safety- namely, their own safety- even if it means a few civilians might be injured, maimed, or killed. The ends justify the means when enforcing the law.

    Whatever a police officer believes about a certain situation is the reality of the situation; dissenting views are not tolerated and are subject to punishment by the state.

    …once again I manage to throw up a little in my mouth today, typing that.

    If any cops have the balls to post on this blog, please feel free to explain why these two thugs should get off scott-free. Please.

  50. Dan T,

    I know you are just trolling

    Tell me this place doesn’t have a serious case of GroupThink when even suggesting that a police officer might not be guilty of a crime that he’s not been proven guilty of is “trolling”.

  51. I’m sure the guy was stoned or drunk or coming off a meth binge…how else could you explain that he both forgot to turn off the alarm system AND fell asleep on his own couch?

  52. Dan T. – You’ve got to do better than that. You have in the past. Finish your coffee, have a cigarette, and then your brain may begin to function.

  53. Rimfax, you’re doing Frantics references? What are you, Canadian?

    Dan is back! OH NOES

  54. Dan T. – You’ve got to do better than that. You have in the past. Finish your coffee, have a cigarette, and then your brain may begin to function.

    But this kind of comment is how I know I’m doing well!

  55. Dan T., how about a nice big cup of STFU?

  56. It is of course possible that there are other events that happened that we heard nothing about, or that some of what we have read is actually false. So, sure, if new information came to light then of course we would have to reach a different conclusion.

    Still, based on what we have read, there’s nothing wrong with concluding that (assuming it’s correct) these guys should be punished.

    I don’t think anybody here is looking for swift punishment without due process. Rather, what we’re saying is that based on the accusations we’d like to see these guys taken to court, and if the accusations are proven true beyond a reasonable doubt then we’d like punishment.

    However, it’s also worth noting that there are 2 separate issues here:

    1) Should these cops go to jail, i.e. lose their liberty?

    2) Should these cops retain their jobs, i.e. remain in positions of power?

    On the first question, the burden must of course be on the accuser. On the second question, the burden must be on the people who wish to retain a position of power.

    So, in conclusion, I don’t think anybody here is saying that we know for certain that these guys are guilty and there’s no reason to look into the matter. Rather, we are saying that based on the story we’ve heard it sounds like they deserve punishment, assuming it checks out. And if we’re suspicious of the internal investigation, it’s because that sort of process often lacks the transparency and impartiality that we’d expect.

  57. Dan T.’s right. These are obviously good cops. If they’d been bad cops, they would still have tasered him, then dropped a dime bag of meth or coke on him, then arrested him for possession.

  58. Dan T.,

    Since you are apparently going to argue the case of the cops, argue it with the facts as they are known to us.

  59. to add insult to injury, he’ll probably be charged a fee for the police responding to a false alarm
    At that point, I’d turn into Micheal Douglas’s character in Falling Down.

  60. thoreau defined what I think is the exactly the core issue here: the cops were cleared because of an internal investigation. How reliable and transparent is an internal investigation? We don’t know, because they won’t tell us.

    An investigation of events like the ones in the story should be conducted by an outside party- someone who we can be reasonably assured of complete impartiality. What sort of agency that could be, I have no idea.

    But an internal investigations of cops, by cops, seems questionable at best, because in this case it seems that there isn’t any question of the accusers story being true or not. An internal investigation tells us “Yeah, it happened; the fuck you gonna do about it?” That’s just not acceptable.

  61. Dan T,

    Tell me this place doesn’t have a serious case of GroupThink when even suggesting that a police officer might not be guilty of a crime that he’s not been proven guilty of is “trolling”.

    Ummm, no. I didnt accuse you of trolling because of the content of your post, I accused you of trolling because you posted it and you are a troll.

    And you know that it wasnt a content based comment.

  62. The funny thing is: everyone is there to make a fuss when police do something wrong, however, no one seems to appreciate the fact that they risk their lives every day for things that you take for granted. I love these articles, that make the ‘victim’ look so innocent…the fact is, they responded to a burglar alarm, in the middle of the night, having no idea of what to expect. The article said that he had had a ‘night out’…what exactly does that mean? He could have been drunk as shit, possibly arguing, threatening, etc. How do we know exactly what happened?

  63. Dan –

    The reason you’re trolling here is because you picked the absolute worst example for the “maybe the cops were right” defense that Radley has posted in a long, long time.

    If you weren’t trolling, in this thread you would join in with the cop-bashing, while saving your ammo for a thread where the scenario posted is a little less absurd.

    Forget the triple tasering – they arrested the guy. For getting tasered in his own house. That’s the least comprehensible part – the false arrest. You can’t resist a lawful order in this case because there’s no lawful order the police can give. They’re in the house in error.

  64. You got me to, Radley. Curse you.

    (good job though. And of course you’ve made me angry for the rest of the day)

  65. Tough luck, Ron.

    One pratfall of being a police officer is that if you enter my house by mistake and taser me, I get to give you shit and you get to suck it up and take it. So it doesn’t matter if the guy was yelling or arguing. It’s his house, so he gets to yell and argue.

  66. Fluffy, I agree with you in that sense. It IS his house…so, he should be able to do whatever he wants, however, the police officers should be able to protect themselves. It is a bad situation all the way around…

  67. Dan T.,

    Since you are apparently going to argue the case of the cops, argue it with the facts as they are known to us.

    I’m not necessarily arguing the case of the cops, just pointing out that Mr. Balko and others here are assuming that Hick’s side of the story is totally true even though the DA found no reason to file criminal charges against the cops.

    If I had to guess I’d say that Hicks was probably quite drunk (otherwise, who comes home and crashes fully clothed on his own sofa?) and that would call a lot of his recollection of the story into question.

    Doesn’t mean the cops didn’t do what Hicks claims, but they do deserve the same status of innocence until proven guilty that anybody else does.

  68. Ron, they tasered him after verifying his name and address! Please proceed to defend that action.

  69. Ron

    It’s still an act of malpractice.

    The malpractice committed by police are generally crimes of malice, recklessness, and over-stepping of authority. These mistakes made by police are really ‘in good faith’.

    I don’t feel that these officers should loose their jobs…But they should be suspended from active duty until retrained. And as with any other job…if this keeps up…then they should b fired.

  70. Episiarch…no defense for that statement. To be completely honest, they were probably pissed off by that point, choosing to arrest him, anyway. It really is a bad situation, because this was a little much, but, you don’t want to deter the cops from checking out your house when an alarm goes off. Did the guy get convicted of anything?

  71. Joe wins the thread.

  72. Dan T.,

    …(otherwise, who comes home and crashes fully clothed on his own sofa?)…

    Someone really tired from a hard day at work?

  73. First paragraph: Same old story.

    Second paragraph: Hope rising.

    Third paragraph: Crash and burn.

    Add me to the “You got me” group.

  74. And Randy wins the thread. These cops were amateurs; the smart ones would have made sure he was unsympathetic by neutralizing him with a planted drug/weapon. If they had done that, you would never have heard about this case at all.

  75. Ummm, no. I didnt accuse you of trolling because of the content of your post, I accused you of trolling because you posted it and you are a troll.

    Right – just like the policemen must be guilty because they are policemen. You’ve summed up Reason GroupThink better than I could have.

  76. Dan T.,

    Indeed, doesn’t half of the American male population regularly fall asleep on the couch fully clothed while watching TV after coming home from work?

  77. Dan T.–

    We’re accusatory because that’s the most likely scenario.

    Quite simply… if the cops have done nothing wrong, make it an open and transparent investigation. Gather evidence and present it to a grand jury — the same way a prosecutor would treat such conduct by any other citizen. If the grand jury hears the evidence and decides they’ve done nothing wrong, fine. But otherwise you have to be extremely suspicious.

  78. But Dan,

    The police are pretty much immuned from prosecution in many ways.

    The DAs in this country r very reluctant to bring charges on police b-cause they depend on police to prosecute crimes.

    If a cop is pulled over while driving drunk…his/her police badge is pretty much a Get out of DWI-Free card. They won’t b arrested.

    And in the rare cases that complaints r put in, they are rarely punished.

    …I’ll tell u one thing…the cops don’t get prosecuted…But CITY HALL always ends up paying Millions of $$ for these malicious acts.

  79. How do we know exactly what happened?

    It would help if the officers would tell us. After searching with Google News, I can’t find an article with the officer’s side of the story. I did find this, which implies the DA concedes that Shawn Hicks’ account was accurate, but doesn’t believe the officers committed a crime.

  80. Alice, you are correct. There should be some sort of reprimand, considering how this was handled. The police have to be able to take criticisms, people yelling at them, and, they have to think quick in sticky situations…that’s why I’m not a cop; I have a bad temper. I just hope that, with all of this negative publicity about the police lately, our kids aren’t scared to ask the police for help, if they need it.

  81. Note to self:

    Send back silent alarm system. Install moat, fill with sharks with frikin’ laser beams attached to their heads.

  82. Tell me this place doesn’t have a serious case of GroupThink when even suggesting that a police officer might not be guilty of a crime that he’s not been proven guilty of

    The T has a point, dammit.

  83. Dan T.,

    Indeed, doesn’t half of the American male population regularly fall asleep on the couch fully clothed while watching TV after coming home from work?

    Probably, but in this case it seems to have been established that Hicks had returned from a night out and had crashed for the night.

    Not that I’m suggesting that’s reason to be tasered, only that it’s a clue that he was drunk and that’s at least one reason why his story may not be totally trustworthy.

  84. Dan T.,

    Probably, but in this case it seems to have been established that Hicks had returned from a night out and had crashed for the night.

    Did they cops know that when they tasered him? From his account he was asleep when it happened.

    …only that it’s a clue that he was drunk and that’s at least one reason why his story may not be totally trustworthy.

    The thing of course is that man has not been charged with any wrongdoing, has he?

  85. Okay, I’m not saying this justifies the use of a taser on a sleeping man, but something about this story bothered me. It seemed too perfect.

    Another article in the Post-Gazette suggests that the victim has had trouble with this same police department before and he may have a drinking problem.

    Mr. Hicks also has a police record that dates back to 1996, when Rankin Police charged him with carrying a gun without a license, receiving stolen property, furnishing alcohol to minors and possession of marijuana. All charges in that case were dismissed except for the marijuana possession.

    In addition, Mr. Hicks pleaded guilty to assault and possession of marijuana charges in Penn Hills, once in May and again in June of 1997; guilty on a 2003 DUI charge in North Braddock, and guilty on a 2005 DUI charge in Swissvale when he was found with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.

    Again, that doesn’t justify the tasering as it’s been presented so far. But the criminal record calls into question whether Mr. Hicks’ side of the story (which is the only side that’s been reported because the government officials are keeping their mouths shut due to pending litigation) is the unvarnished truth.

    It’s pretty clear that Hicks was drinking the night he was tasered, drunk enough to forget his alarm and pass out on the couch fully dressed. His DUI’s suggest a drinking problem. His two assault arrests suggest something of a temper. Doesn’t this raise an inference that he mis-remembered some of what he said or did with the cops?

  86. dan T.,

    Not that I’m suggesting that’s reason to be tasered,…

    Earlier you made this statement:

    …(otherwise, who comes home and crashes fully clothed on his own sofa?)…

    You seemed to be suggesting earlier that being asleep on the coach was somehow suspicious behavior.

  87. Abdul,

    It would help if you linked to said article.

  88. Oh, one more thing: don’t think the officers got off scot free. A Nov. 6 article in the Post Gazette says the local DA referred the case to the feds for possible civil rights violations and that Hicks is pursuing a civil suit of his own. So there’s two possibilities that the officers will be punished.

  89. And I used to think that the cops and justice system was bad in Texas! It appears that cops everywhere are following GW Bush’s example and are trampling civil liberties. They tasered Hicks for kicks (and perhaps they did not like his permanent tan). They arrested him for “being belligerent” and invited cops from six neighboring boroughs to search his residence. They were obviously trying to find something to justify their thuggery and false arrest. Their actions are totally indefensible.

    This incident took place two months ago. Yet the fascist DA (a Democrat) ran unopposed for reelection this week. Apparently this case did not inspire widespread outrage in the county. There is no sanctuary from injustice in Allegheny County, especially if you have the wrong color skin.

    I am teaching my 4 children to distrust policemen, politicians, and priests.

  90. Abdul,

    That is shades of “prostitutes can’t get raped”; the assumption that a person of ill repute automatically is assumed to be on the wrong side of any legal situation. Perfect test cases don’t happen because, unfortunately, the incidents at the fringes of the law that expose these sorts of abuses usually involve people who live on the fringes themselves.

    Tasering a sleeping person is never justifiable. The police have access to the name of the occupants of the houses to which they respond, and since he has a record they also would have access to his physical description. Regardless of how many drunken expletives he weaved into his assertion of his identity, once his identity was established by ID the police have no cause to even remain on the premises, never mind continue to use force. And if the DA doesn’t dispute any of these substantial facts, and yet still think a crime has not occurred, that DA needs to be fired.

  91. Syloson of Samos,

    I can’t link it. I found it using a commerical news search site to which I have access for “work-related purposes.”

    Someone might be able to find it with this information: September 13, 2007 Thursday, EAST EDITION, METRO; Pg. EZ-1, 1082 words, BOROUGH INVESTIGATES TASER COMPLAINT, Karamagi Rujumba, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  92. You seemed to be suggesting earlier that being asleep on the coach was somehow suspicious behavior.

    Sorry, I was suggesting that being asleep on the couch fully clothed after a night out was an indication that Hicks was drunk, which might call his version of events into question.

  93. Elemenope,

    I didn’t say that his criminal history means he deserved it. I said twice that his criminal history doesn’t justify the tasering. But the criminal history raises an inference that his story–the only story we have so far–may be less than the Gospel truth. I didn’t even suggest he was lying, just too drunk to remember properly.

  94. Actually, they were merely cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. I gotta think that the pending civil action (not to mention Federal action) might bring about some administrative discipline.

  95. Face it Girls…The TASER is the FUTURE.

    The Tase first…ask questions later is a New World Order STANDARD

  96. Perhaps they were cleared of any wrongdoing because they didn’t commit any wrongdoing?

    I don’t know, but there is at least a possibility that being a police officer does not mean that you are guilty of everything you are accused of. Right?

    You could be correct, but the fact that you are a horse’s ass means you have to state your case a little better than that. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

  97. Abdul,

    The thing of course there were never any charges lodged against him, so one can infer from that this that his actions couldn’t have been all that terrible, violent, etc. Doesn’t that sound like a reasonable inference to you?

  98. It’s pretty clear that Hicks was drinking the night he was tasered, drunk enough to forget his alarm and pass out on the couch fully dressed. His DUI’s suggest a drinking problem. His two assault arrests suggest something of a temper. Doesn’t this raise an inference that he mis-remembered some of what he said or did with the cops?

    Radley is a very talented propagandist, and he has a very receptive audience here. If Mr. Balko ever decides to go to the dark side, I have no doubt he could rile up a lynch mob in no time.

  99. S of S,

    Yeah, that’s reasonable. But the story we have now is one-sided. That’s what I’m pointing out.

  100. You could be correct, but the fact that you are a horse’s ass means you have to state your case a little better than that. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

    The horse’s ass burden is a tough one to overcome, I confess.

  101. Mr. Balko and others here are assuming that Hick’s side of the story is totally true even though the DA found no reason to file criminal charges against the cops.

    Maybe you’ve never seen a cop show, but absent a corpse and a smoking gun in a cop’s hand pointing at the corpse, the DA is *always* going to side with the cops.

    It’s pretty clear that Hicks was drinking the night he was tasered, drunk enough to forget his alarm and pass out on the couch fully dressed.

    So what? The cops’ proper response upon seeing that they were WRONG is to say “Sorry” and leave. Not to cover your ass with more tasering and arrests.

  102. Abdul,

    The thing of course there were never any charges lodged against him, so one can infer from that this that his actions couldn’t have been all that terrible, violent, etc. Doesn’t that sound like a reasonable inference to you?

    I guess a third possibility is that Hicks really was drunk and billigerent AND the cops overreacted with the taser and arrest. So the DA probably just wants the whole incident to be forgotten and so he’s not filing charges on anybody…

  103. the DA is *always* going to side with the cops

    . . . Or refer the case to the feds for possible civil rights violations, which is what happened here.

  104. Dan-

    As you say, it may be that he was drunk and belligerent but the cops STILL over-reacted. The whole point is that if the use of force is excessive then it’s excessive, and the cops should face a penalty of some sort. Making the right decisions about the use of force in difficult situations is what they’re paid to do. If they can’t do that, then they shouldn’t be cops.

  105. Dan T.,

    If someone (cop or not) were to taser you while you asleep on your couch or in your bed would you be “belligerent?”

  106. Abdul –

    “Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. says county police determined Officers Gerard Kraly and Lukas Laeuricia (loo-REE’-see-uh) didn’t commit a crime when they Tasered Shawn Hicks, who was sleeping on his couch.”

    It’s not Hicks saying he was asleep when tasered. It’s the DA saying he was asleep when he was tasered.

    CB
    ps. (I’ve found it much faster to read long threads like this if you just overlook ANY that are signed by “Dan T.” or start by addressing a response to “Dan T.”.)

  107. CB,

    You can read the statement that way, but I see it as a journalist paraphrasing what the DA said and working in a short summary of prior stories to get the reader up to speed.

  108. Abdul – whatever works for you. Have you met joe?

    CB

  109. “Maybe you’ve never seen a cop show, but absent a corpse and a smoking gun in a cop’s hand pointing at the corpse, the DA is *always* going to side with the cops.” – Rhywun

    This reminds me of an incident that happened to a friend of mine a few years ago.

    My friend was asleep in bed after a long night of drinking in a casino hotel room. I don’t remember exactly why the police were in his room that night (probably a noise complaint from the rest of his party), but I know that after they shook him violently trying to wake him up, my friend clenched his hand into a fist immediately upon waking, and before realizing who it was that was shaking him. He didn’t even attempt to swing at the officers before they beat the S out of him and arrested him with charges of assaulting an officer. The charges were eventually dropped and the officers were never disciplined…

  110. Think about it from the city’s perspective: They’re going to get sued no matter what they do. If they fire/punish the cops, the cops and their union will file all kinds of administrative and legal challenges to the action, which could last for years. Or they let the cops off the hook and Joe Citizen sues the department and gets his lawsuit promptly thrown out on grounds of sovereign immunity (happens all the time).

    That’s obviously not a moral calculation, but certainly a fiscal one.

  111. Balko, you suck… Just Kidding.

    But damn I do hate you for that.

  112. @Ron,

    You make good points about cops risking their lives each and every day. But, you;’ll have to forgive me. I save all such gratefullness for our nation’s brave fisherman, who after all, have a significantly more dangerous job than cops.

    Oh, and when a fisherman breaks into someone’s house and tasers him, the fisherman gets arrested.

    Thank god for fishermen!

  113. On the question of drunkenness – it does sound to me like the guy was drunk, but that makes me believe him MORE, not less.

    The really odd part of the story is his claim that the police tasered him while he was asleep. If he was drunk, I’ll bet he didn’t wake up when they came into the house and started yelling “Hands up!” or “Get on the floor!” or whatever generic cop command they probably started with. Because they were apparently too dumb to realize the guy was passed out, they tasered him, “to take control of the situation” or “to insure officer safety” or “to obtain compliance”.

    It also makes the DA’s decision predictable, since he probably has a policy where the police can use the taser if a suspect “doesn’t respond”. The DA would probably have done the same thing if the cops decided to taser a quadriplegic over and over because he “refused to comply” with an order to put his hands up.

  114. I have a question. Why didn’t these cops just cuff the guy while he was asleep? Seems to me that would have been simple and would have avoided quite a bit of trouble.

  115. “I have a question. Why didn’t these cops just cuff the guy while he was asleep? Seems to me that would have been simple and would have avoided quite a bit of trouble.” – Tsu Dho Nihm

    Good question. Maybe they didn’t want to be accused of false arrest. Or maybe they were as drunk as Mr. Hicks…

  116. Eh what? I think ‘false arrest’ would be better than ‘assuault and false arrest’, which is exactly what it looks to me like these POS’s did.

  117. The cops had entered the home, turned on the light and found Mr. Hicks asleep on the sofa. If they identified themselves or ordered him to get up, Mr. Hicks said he did not hear it. He said he wasn’t aware of their presence until he was shot in the back with a Taser.

    According to Mr. Hicks, the cops were skeptical. “How do we know that you’re who you say you are?” the shorter of the two cops asked.

    At that point, the cop holding the Taser squeezed the trigger, sending Mr. Hicks into paroxysm of agony. It was not a short jolt like the first one he received. He fell to the floor. His screams woke the neighbors.

    “What do you want?” Mr. Hicks asked. “Please stop [shooting] me.” The shorter cop helped him to his feet. Swaying unsteadily, he offered to show them his identification. They searched him and found his wallet. After inspecting it, they threw the wallet on the coffee table.

    “I told you I lived here and that I’m the legal resident,” he shouted, believing he finally had justice, common decency and the angels of heaven on his side. A staff member at the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, Mr. Hicks counts himself on the side of the law-abiding citizen.

    The cop with the Taser squeezed the trigger again, anyway. Mr. Hicks flapped his arms wildly, but didn’t fall. All he could do was scream loud enough to be heard all over the Mon Valley.

    After removing the pellets from his bloody back, the cops handcuffed Mr. Hicks and led him out his front door to a police van. They did not read him his rights, Mr. Hicks says.

    Dan T. if you want to argue about the possibility of good cops making mistakes while doing a difficult job, you should pick a better case to use as your example.

    The first time the police tazered the guy, it could be argued that they were taking control of an uncertain situation (although I don’t know exactly how anyone can argue with a straight face that a man sleeping on his stomach represents any kind of imminent threat).

    The second time they tazered him, they were taking face-to-face with an unarmed man. There is no rational argument that can be made that this action was necessary.

    The third time they tazered him, they had confirmed his identity. There aren’t even irrational arguments to be made that this was necessary.

    The first time they tazered him was clear evidence of malpractice. That should be enough to get them reprimanded if not fired. The other two times are clearly criminal assualt.

  118. Cracker’s Boy,

    Hey, joe, Dan T., and Episiarch are about 1/3 of the reason that I read the comments. (Hell, I still miss gaius marius’s e e cummings impression. *sniff*) I really think that we have some of the best trolls that a group of politically opinionated geeks could ever want. They are philosophically consistent, passionate, often respectful, and frequently human.

    THE URKOBOLD on the other hand….

  119. Tsu Dho Nihm,

    I totally agree with you. The 2 officers involved in this incident deserve to be stripped of their badges and guns (and tasers for that matter). They are the definition of POS and I hope Mr. Hicks gets his apology and some compensation for his anguish…

  120. I read reason for the URKOBOLD and also DONDEROOOO. Something about allcaps gets me hot and bothered.

  121. your acting like the guy was a total gentlemen during the whole thing and the cops are randomly tasing him. When that is probably very very far from what actually happened.

  122. M:

    perhaps you’d like a drink of Dan T.’s cup of STFU?

    When you tazer a sleeping person, yeah, it’s unjustified.

  123. Yeah, Dan is being a moron. He is arguing that it is wrong not to determine all the fact about people who use force against someone without determining all the facts.

  124. “””The first time the police tazered the guy, it could be argued that they were taking control of an uncertain situation (although I don’t know exactly how anyone can argue with a straight face that a man sleeping on his stomach represents any kind of imminent threat).

    The second time they tazered him, they were taking face-to-face with an unarmed man. There is no rational argument that can be made that this action was necessary.

    The third time they tazered him, they had confirmed his identity. There aren’t even irrational arguments to be made that this was necessary.”””

    The problem with this argument is that it is under the rubic of self defence. Tazers are not guns, cops are allowed to use them for compliance, not just self-defense. The real problem is that states are authorizing non-lethal weapons for uses other than self-defense.

  125. your acting like the guy was a total gentlemen during the whole thing and the cops are randomly tasing him.

    I assume he was screaming profanities.

    That does not in any possible way justifiy tazing the guy after the cops confirmed his identity by searching his body and finding his wallet.

  126. “When Hicks tried to explain that the whole thing was a misunderstanding, and that the officers were in his own home, they tasered him again. They next checked his wallet and ID, which confirmed his name and address. Then they tasered him again.”

    He may not have been guilty of that, but he must have been guilty of something.

    …these cops make me want to puke.

  127. i’m pissed! i actually had a bit of hope going towards the end of the story & then nothing. THANKS! 😉

  128. I’m sorry, too many comments. Shall I quote Ice T and NWA, or has someone beat me to it?

    Fucking pigs.

  129. SHOOT A COP, SAVE YOUR FREEDOM!!

  130. fuck the police

  131. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why people call cops Pigs.

  132. Sure tease me with the police doing the right thing.

    Have we slipped into a fascist police state so slowly the the people are like the frog in the slowly heated pot; unaware of the problem and slowly cooking…

  133. This is why we need more snipers on hills to start picking off police, randomly, they need to learn to WORK WITHIN the LAW not be the LAW

    What about their families? Wahhh snipe them too

  134. Very strange that a story of this magnitude does not make the news or papers or anything but your sheet. Could it have been made up?

  135. Feh.

    And you wonder why people are skittish of cops these days.

    Civil Ri..wha? What’re tho…SHIT..IT BLINKED…TASE HIM!!!!

  136. Uh, Lewis, did you clicky-clicky on the linky-linky?

    Were the last six comments minus Peter Kahn made by the same guy?

  137. the guy was black, this article nicely omits this point. I like that. Its not OK no matter what skin color this man had. He’s in his own home when excessive force is used. Its really a pretty high standard the police need to meet to justify force on someone in their own home. Seriously, why not cuff the guy in his sleep if there was a threat. That would have been a lesser measure, but also false arrest but at least without assault. WTF? Is this community largely white and thats why this guy got tazed without cause? I like that tasers are non lethal, the problem is psycholgicaly it lowers their use threshold. Much easier to rationalize non lethal force. Still, if its excessive, its assault. Like the night stick or billy club. Frankly, if someone woke me up that way in my house my instinct would be far worse.

  138. Reason was squeamish about non-lethal force creep like this back when these technologies were introduced.

    You know, it’s not the non-lethal force that’s the problem. It’s not tasers that are a problem. It’s the cops who use them. In fact, thank god they had a taser, had this happened in the fifties, Mr. Hicks would have been shot 18 times, and it would have been ruled a suicide.

    Oh, on this side note, you know how the little video recorders on the hoods of police cars have been both effective in disproving B.S. by the perpetrators, and catching overly aggressive cops who cross the line? I believe that it’s time for cops to start wearing remote video cameras on their person. We have the technology, it can be done. Now the exchanges which occur in the private confines of a living room, away from the police cruiser can be scrutinized too. Cops are constantly being cleared in these situations, so surely the police have nothing to fear. Now we can see just how “beligerent” Mr. Hicks actually was, what order things happened, how many times they tasered him, and in response to what actions by the cops.

  139. You know what happened next. The police department suspended the officers who tasered Hicks without pay while they conducted a thorough investigation. … The two officers were fired from the police force, then charged, convicted, and given lengthy prison terms.

    Just kidding. They were cleared of any wrongdoing.

    Don’t tease me, bro!

  140. What you people fail to realize, because you are all just a bunch of GroupThink victims is that none of us really knows what happened. This story was cooked up with a victim’s perspective and made no attempt to represent the perspective of the police.

    I like the police. I like guns. I like tasers. I have a right to touch myself when I think about these things, and I have a right to my own opinion. GroupThinkers are always picking on people with gun/power fetishes. You’re all just bitter because I also have a rape fetish, and I imagine you’re all attacking me and raping me after rebutting all of my arguments.

    I like it! You don’t like it because you want to hurt my feelings, and I am rubber and you are glue.

  141. Dude should’ve had a gun under his pillow. He too would’ve been cleared of any wrong doing.
    Just kidding… The S.W.A.T. team would have blown his head off – for defending himself?

  142. @ the innominate one and anyone else who cares:

    The “M” of November 8, 2007, 3:36pm is not me.

    I am the M who has been posting here for months, who considers Balko a hero and has repeatedly said so, and was about about to post a sarcastic “if you don’t your sleeping conditions, you can always move to another house,” when I was startled to see my favorite letter heading an unfamiliar sentiment.

    Since my views here are by and large neither exceptional (for H&R) nor notorious, I suspect the “M” at 3:36 is a newcomer unaware that his/her choice of handle duplicated mine.

    This is actually the second instance in about a month that this has happened to my favorite letter, and as earlier, and hoping for the same considerate compliance I received then, I would respectfully ask that “M” at 3:36, while continuing to post whatever s/he wishes, please select another moniker to avoid confusion.

  143. if you don’t like your sleeping conditions, even

    Creds – by typical bumble – established.

  144. “I’m sorry, too many comments. Shall I quote Ice T and NWA, or has someone beat me to it?”

    I got my twelve gauge sawed-off
    I got my headlights turned off
    I’m ’bout to bust some shots off
    I’m ’bout to dust some cops off!!!!

    I love songs with a positive message.

  145. Point and laugh folks. It wasn’t you so just pass on by. Go about your business. Nothing to see here.

  146. It’s a good thing the cops didn’t get a call there was a dead body in the house. They would have said, “He’s not moving, he must be dead.” And get the knives and saws.

    Just kidding.

  147. The general therapy. Snoring

    The patient treatment to snore according to different reasons for different treatments, the selection of treatment is to determine treatment effect is the most important factor. We four points to present the main method for snoring. First, the general treatment. Weight: obesity is one of the factors caused pharyngeal stenosis. Reduces weight loss of airway obstruction. Smoking cigarettes can stimulate the wine, cause inflammation of the pharyngeal pharyngeal swelling narrow, wine can make muscle relaxation, solitary, thus aggravate obstruction after falling. In addition, the side before sleeping refuses to calm sleep all have to snore.

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