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77-year-old Moorhead man sues police who used Taser

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A 77-year-old Moorhead man is suing three Moorhead police officers, whom he accuses of excessive force when they used a Taser stun gun on him twice, Forum Communications reports. James Van Raden says he has a heart condition and says that he warned officers the Taser could kill him.

Van Raden is seeking unspecified damages for physical pain and injury, emotional harm and medical expenses, in addition to punitive damages and legal fees, Forum reports. Forum has the police video of the incident as well as a lengthy account of what court documents say led to it.

Van Raden and police differ in their versions of what led to the Aug. 23, 2011 incident. Nine days earlier, a basement-unit renter in his house told police that Van Raden had threatened him with a shotgun, and Van Raden had been arrested and charged, police say.

Van Raden said the renter harassed him after that, and he complained to police, in one call asking police, "What do you have to do, kill yourself before you get relief from all this (crap)?” Police arrived an hour later, and said they had to take him away because he was suicidal. Van Raden resisted, and police eventually followed up with a threat to use the Taser if Van Raden would not cooperate, Forum reports.

Time magazine noted last week that Tasers are under new scrutiny after the recent death of a Miami Beach teenaged street artist who had been tased by police who were trying to arrest him.

Time notes that about 16,500 of the 18,000 police departments in the U.S. have purchased Tasers for at least some of their officers. The stun gun has been used in the field almost 2 million times, a company executive told the magazine.

Taser's manufacturers say the stun guns prevent suspect and officer injuries and ultimately reduce the use of deadly force. Critics, among them Amnesty International, note that U.S. Taser-related deaths have surpassed 500, and they have called for stricter rules on police use of the stun guns.

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