ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A state motor transportation police officer Tased a 10-year-old student during a school career fair in May in Tularosa, causing him to black out, according to a lawsuit filed by the boy’s family.
Officer Christopher Webb pointed the stun gun at the boy after the boy made a joke and said, “Let me show you what happens to people who do not listen to the police,” according to the lawsuit filed Friday against the state Department of Public Safety.
The officer contends his stun gun went off by accident while he was showing it to a group of students, according to Department of Public Safety documents.
Webb, who is also named in the suit, received a three-day, unpaid suspension in connection with the incident, according to documents provided by the law firm bringing the suit.
Eric Shelton, chief of the state motor transportation police, said he could not comment on pending litigation but said the department is aware of the incident. He also confirmed the unpaid suspension.
Webb did not return calls seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, Webb was presenting at a career day program at Tularosa Intermediate School, which serves students in third through sixth grade. He asked a group of students if they would like to clean his patrol car, and according to the suit, the 10-year-old victim “jokingly” said he did not want to.
At that time, according to the suit, Webb pointed his stun gun at the boy, made the comment about people who don’t listen to the police, and Tased the boy in the chest. Two barbs allegedly pierced the boy’s skin, sending 50,000 volts of electricity through his body for five seconds and causing him to black out. The boy weighs less than 100 pounds.
The boy is referred to only by his initials in the lawsuit, but the suit names his legal guardian as Rachel Higgins.
According to the suit, the places where the barbs pierced the boy’s skin now look like cigarette burns.
The Kennedy Law Firm provided the Journal with a letter to State Police from a master Taser instructor, who analyzed the Taser for defects and found none. The instructor also wrote that it is possible but rare for a Taser to deploy without the trigger being pulled. He said that even if the probes deployed by accident, the person struck with them would not be shocked unless the trigger was pulled.
According to the suit, Webb pulled the barbs out of the boy’s chest and took him to the principal’s office after the incident, rather than calling for medical attention.
The boy has since suffered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and has woken up in the middle of the night, holding his chest and afraid, according to the suit.
In a written statement, provided by the Kennedy Law Firm, Webb wrote that he pulled the stun gun out of its holster to show a group of students. “The taser accidentally discharged hitting a boy directly in the chest. Realizing what had happened I shut the power switch off pulled off the cartridge throwing it to the ground and pulled the probes off of the boy’s shirt.”
Webb’s account also says Webb helped bring the boy to the nurse’s office, and stayed with him until his mother arrived.
The family is suing for compensation and punitive damages.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal