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September 27, 2005 - The Tennessean (TN)

Protest Decries Death After Taser Hits

Friends, Family Lead Questions Over Use Of Stun Guns To Subdue Young Man At Club

By Christian Bottorff, Staff Writer

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Family and friends of a Nashville man who died Saturday after being repeatedly shocked by police Taser stun guns gathered at the base of the state Capitol yesterday to protest his death and the continued use of the controversial devices by Metro officers.

About 50 supporters held signs, passed out leaflets and reminisced about Patrick Lee, 21, who was pronounced dead Saturday afternoon, two days after a bizarre confrontation with Metro officers outside of Mercy Lounge, a nightclub on Cannery Row near Eighth Avenue South.

Police said they tried to restrain Lee after he was removed from the club and began running through the streets naked. At one point, officers shocked him multiple times with Taser stun guns and beat his lower body with batons.

Paramedics arrived to find Lee in cardiac and respiratory distress and took him to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he later died. The exact cause of death is unknown, and investigations remain under way by police and the medical examiner's office.

"This was unneeded," said friend Mia Barker, 19, a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University. "Obviously, now it needs to be fought. It never needs to happen to anyone in his situation ever again. I just wish he were here."

Lee, whom relatives said had planned to study audio engineering in October, is the second person to die in Nashville after being shot with a Taser since Metro police distributed 45 of the devices to their patrol officers in November.

In May, Walter Lamont Seats died after swallowing crack cocaine wrapped in plastic. In that case, police defended their use of the Taser, saying it was the obstruction to his airway and not the stun gun that caused his death.

The department said it is still trying to determine what caused Lee's death.

"The Police Department is taking these investigations very, very seriously," Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said. "We have not made judgments at this point regarding whether our policies and training were fully complied with."

Police said Lee told them that he had ingested either LSD or PCP. But his father, songwriter Earl Bud Lee, who co-wrote Garth Brooks' hit Friends in Low Places, said hospital workers told him they had found only Valium and marijuana in his son's blood.

Medical examiners have sent his blood for more detailed tests that would detect a wider range of drugs than would the tests conducted at the hospital.

Metro Councilman Jamie Isabel, who earlier this year had asked for a moratorium on the use of Tasers by Metro police, asked for an independent study of Taser safety yesterday after the latest death.

Isabel said he could call for Police Chief Ronal Serpas to appear before Metro's Public Safety Committee to answer questions about the death.

"With an independent study, Nashville will then know whether these devices are safe and are being used as they should be. I would prefer to err on the side of caution. Lives are at stake," Isabel said in a statement yesterday.

Alan Horsnell, a friend of Lee's since high school, marched with a sign on his back that bore Lee's birthday, April 1, and the words "Killed by the MNPD."

"This is not something that just liberals in the corner need to be shocked by," he said. "The fact that police departments are using (Tasers) as a legitimate law enforcement tool is really shocking."

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