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I-Team: Fort Worth Police TASER Use On The Rise

FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - Hit with a TASER at 12-years-old; it happened right here in Fort Worth. Now, our CBS 11 I-Team is uncovering dozens of cases where someone was exposed to a TASER by a Fort Worth police officer and seriously injured.

The Fort Worth Police Department is no stranger to scrutiny stemming from TASERS. Video from 2007 show Marcus Swiat being hit with a TASER for 40 seconds. Swiat survived, 24-year-old Michael Patrick Jacobs wasn't so lucky. He was exposed to a TASER for 49 seconds. Although the department never admitted wrong-doing, they paid the family $2 million.

Then, just this past May, Fort Worth Police used a TASER on Jermaine Darden,34, while trying to serve a search warrant for drugs. Officers say Darden resisted arrest, but his mother disagrees.

"The first tase they gave him, he was like reacting from the tase. And all of a sudden they did it two more times," Donna Randle, Darden's mother remembered.

Minutes later Darden stopped breathing. Drugs were never found in the home. The medical examiner is still working on his cause of death; however, his mother says officers went too far, even after she told them he had a medical condition.

"I feel like you used too excessive force," Randle said. "You actually abused my child. You killed my child."

The Darden case is just one of many examples where Fort Worth police officers shocked someone with a TASER and seriously injured them.

Information the CBS 11 I-Team got a hold of shows in 2012, 113 people were exposed to a TASER, 25 were injured. So far this year police have used a TASER on 72 people and 30 needed medical attention.

Jose Andrade was one of them.

"I came inside and the first thing I saw was some scissors. I opened them up and, you can still see the scar on my hand," Andrade said.

"Did you want to die that night," Investigative Reporter Mireya Villarreal asked.

"Yes," Andrade answered.

Family members called police after Andrade had a fight with his wife and left the home. It's a decision they now regret.

A police report we got a hold of shows an officer found Andrade walking down North Riverside drive with "blood trickling down both of his wrists". He adds Andrade "ignored verbal commands" to stop and he was in "fear for his safety".

But the 22-year old says he made it clear he had "no weapon" and was still never warned a TASER might be used.

"Some officers, they can overdo it because they know they have that power to do it," Andrade told us.

Mireya Villarreal followed up, "Do you think that's what happened that night?"

"Yes," he said.

Andrade spent four days in a psychiatric ward being observed. He is one of twelve mental detention cases that resulted in the use of a TASER.

"In some circumstances there is not enough time to warn someone that you are going to use force," Fort Worth Assistant Chief Pridgen explained. "And in certain instances an officer may use force prior to the warning."

Normally, active resistance needs to be present for an officer to use his TASER. But Fort Worth's Assistant Chief Abdul Pridgen says for this department, TASERS can be used as long as an officer fears for his safety. He couldn't explain why there's been a rise in TASER cases that resulted in injury; only saying he'd look into the numbers.

"Well, just because they went to the hospital doesn't mean there is an injury. Sometimes it is a precautionary measure to make sure nothing is wrong. That doesn't indicate that there is an injury," Pridgen noted.

Jerry Staton spent 25 years with the Austin Police Department. He now runs his own business training police officers across the country how to properly use a TASER.

"For every time that an officer pulls a trigger on a TASER to solve a problem, there's probably been seven or eight or nine situations that the same problem has been solved merely by having it," Staton explained.

Staton told us courts across the country have given police departments clear guidelines for using a TASER. He says active resistance needs to be present for any type of use of force to be used.

He adds, every case is different and TASERS are an extremely effective tool that rarely causes major injury if they're used right.

"Don't count on this weapon to do your job for you, it's just a tool. It's a good tool. Don't overuse it. Don't be so quick to use it," Staton said.

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