Australian Bursts into Flames after Being Tasered
The man, identified by his family as 36-year-old Ronald Mitchell, was in critical condition at a Perth hospital in Western Australia state following Monday's incident in Warburton, an Aboriginal community 950 miles northeast of Perth.
Western Australia police said they were responding to a complaint at a house when Mitchell ran outside carrying a cigarette lighter and a large plastic bottle containing what they believe was fuel. When he refused to stop running toward them, one officer Tasered him, police said in a statement.
The man was immediately engulfed in flames. The officer threw him to the ground and smothered the blaze with his hands, the statement said. Mitchell was charged with assault to prevent arrest and possession of a sniffing substance.
An 18-year-old woman threw rocks at the officer as he tried to help, and he was later treated for a cut on his head and burns to his hands, police said.
The woman was charged with two counts of assaulting an officer, police Sgt. Graham Clifford said. Two others at the house were charged with possessing a sniffing substance.
Mitchell's sister, Morinda West, told The Australian newspaper that her brother had been sniffing gasoline and that when he ran out of the house he was carrying a lighter and an orange juice container full of gasoline.
Police spokeswoman Susan Usher said Mitchell appeared to have received third-degree burns to about ten percent of his body.
Western Australia Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan defended the officer's actions on Tuesday, calling Mitchell a known gasoline sniffer and violent offender.
"The police officers were concerned that they were going to be burnt so they deployed a Taser," O'Callaghan told reporters in Perth. "The only other choice they would have had is to use a police-issue firearm and the circumstances would almost certainly have been far more grave."
O'Callaghan also said that while Mitchell did burst into flames after the Taser was deployed, it wasn't immediately clear if the stun gun actually sparked the fire.
"There is a very strong possibility the fire was caused by the lighter in the hand of the offender," he said.
The officer who Tasered Mitchell was not suspended, Clifford said.
- Atty: Charges will not be dropped in Kaitlyn Hunt case
- Kaitlyn Hunt: "I'm scared of losing the rest of my life..."
- "Anonymous" vows to petition Kaitlyn Hunt case
- Jodi Arias jury: We can't decide sentence
- Ex-teacher on FBI 'Most Wanted' list due in court in porn case
- Fla. man accidentally calls 911 and reveals murder plan
- Cops: Mom arrested for stripping during school assembly
- Cops: Utah teen arrested in death of his 2 brothers
- Ronald Poppo, victim of "cannibal attack," thanks doctors
- 3 teens charged with raping girl, 12, putting video on web
- Fla. girl, 18, charged over underage same-sex relationship
- Police recover backpacks of 2 kidnapped Iowa girls
- 13-yr.-old girls targeted in Minn. abduction attempts
- Cops: NY man rescued after being held for ransom
- Cops: Barbara Walters' daughter charged with DUI in Fla.
- Third Calif. law student charged in Vegas bird killing