Tempe police defend use of Taser on suspect who picked up baby
PHOENIX — Black Lives Matter activists on Tuesday called for the firing of Tempe police officers involved in an incident in which a man holding an infant was shocked with a Taser.
Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir defended her officers’ actions and put the blame on the man for putting his family in harm’s way.
Ivaughn Oakry and his family said police entered their home without consent near Elliot Road and Hardy Drive on June 15 for a nonemergency call.
Police said the call was for a domestic violence incident, and they had a lawful right to enter to check the children’s welfare.
“We can not forget or excuse that it was the actions of this domestic violence suspect, this adult, who endangered others,” Moir said.
Body camera footage (WARNING: explicit language) shows officers pointing a Taser at Oakry and telling him to put his hands behind his head when he picks up his 1-year-old son.
In the video, officers tell him to put the baby down. Oakry continues to hold the child and demands the officers leave multiple times before he is shocked with the Taser.
The family alleges that when Oakry was hit, the child felt a shock through skin-to-skin contact.
“The child was never struck by the Taser, and Tasers do not conduct energy into a second person in this type of a deployment,” Moir said.
Axon, the manufacturer of Tasers, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that electricity from the devices “will generally not pass to others in contact with the subject.”
“Contact must be made directly between or on the probes, or the wires need to be touched in order for any secondary shock to be delivered,” the company said in an email.
After being hit by the Taser, Oakry fell into a pile of clothing and was apprehended.
First responders from Tempe Fire Medical Rescue who were called by police checked out the woman in the home, the kids and the suspect and determined nobody was injured or needed additional treatment, Moir said.
The family said the incident left them with unspecified physical health problems and severe emotional trauma.
Oakry was arrested and charged with one count each of endangerment and assault on the children’s mother. The charges were dropped because the victim didn’t want to help prosecutors, Moir said.
Lisa Oakry, Ivaughn’s mother, said at a press conference Tuesday that the officer who used a Taser is a “monster.”
“You need to be held accountable,” she said. “Whoever trained you needs to be retrained, or they need to be fired, and (the officer) needs to be fired.”
The police department concluded no use-of-force violations were committed, but the officers involved received retraining in “contact communication, defensive tactics and enhanced de-escalation techniques,” according to a press release.
Moir said retraining doesn’t mean something went wrong.
“Even in a successful outcome, learning can take place,” she said.
“It’s important for us to continue to train, to continue to give options to our officers so they can make rapid and precise decisions for the safeguarding of people and themselves in these difficult circumstances.”
Black Lives Matter said it is planning to protest the incident at Thursday’s City Council meeting.
Along with demanding the officers be fired, the group calls for changes to police policy, including not using physical force in the presence of children unless a child is at direct risk of harm.
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