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March 10, 2005 - The Gainesville Sun, The (FL)

Use Of Taser To Get Sample Of Urine Being Investigated

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LANDO - A police officer twice used a Taser stun device on a drug suspect who was restrained to a hospital bed because the man refused to give a urine sample to medical staff, authorities said.

Antonio Wheeler, 18, was arrested Friday on a drug charge and taken to an emergency room after telling officers he had consumed cocaine, police said. Because Wheeler said he had used the drugs, Florida Hospital officials wanted a urine sample. A police affidavit said Wheeler wouldn't provide a sample on his own, so workers tried to catheterize him to get one.

The police document said Wheeler was handcuffed to a hospital bed and then secured with leather straps after he refused to urinate in a cup. When medical staff tried to insert a catheter to get the sample, Wheeler refused and began thrashing around, the affidavit said.

At one point, police officer Peter Linnenkamp reported, he jumped on the bed with his knees on Wheeler's chest to restrain him. When Wheeler still refused to let the catheter be inserted, Linnenkamp said he twice used his Taser, which sends 50,000 volts into a target.

"After the second shock (Wheeler) stated he would urinate and calmed down enough to be given the portable urinal," Linnenkamp wrote.

At the request of Police Chief Michael McCoy, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the incident. Linnenkamp is on administrative leave. Wheeler was being held on $7,500 bail.

Linnenkamp, who has more than 18 years on the force, has no history of disciplinary problems, said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a department spokeswoman.

He has been relieved pending the investigation's outcome. Jones said officers in such suspensions usually are paid.

In a Tuesday interview at the Orange County jail, Wheeler acknowledged that he aggressively resisted efforts to insert the catheter because he was scared it would hurt. He said the police officer told him the catheter would be necessary if he wouldn't or couldn't urinate on his own.

"I feel I was basically raped," Wheeler said.

Said Amnesty International USA spokesman Edward Jackson: "If this had taken place in China, it would be an egregious violation of human rights, and the public would be outraged.

"I hope that they don't allow the fact that it happened on U.S. soil deter from the fact that this may very well be a case of torture."

Florida Hospital spokeswoman Melanie Trivento said in a statement Wednesday that hospital officials wouldn't be able to comment on the case until they have thoroughly reviewed it.

"This is a very unusual situation and we are examining all of the circumstances surrounding the incident," the statement said.

Earlier, another hospital spokeswoman, Samantha O'Lenick, said she could not speak specifically about the Wheeler case but said hospital protocol calls for urine samples whenever patients say they have taken drugs or alcohol.

Wheeler was being held on $7,500 bail on charges including possession of cocaine with intent to sell, escape and resisting without violence.

March 10, 2005 - The Orlando Sentinel (FL)

Editorial: Abuse Of The Taser

Using A Taser To Shock A Suspect Into Giving Evidence Was Way Over The Line

The Orlando police policy on Taser use is specific. The weapon is not to be used to force suspects to spit out illegal drugs.

Yet last week an OPD officer used two electrical jolts from a Taser to force a drug suspect to give a urine sample for a medical examination. That suspect was handcuffed to a hospital gurney and strapped down when he was shocked with the Taser.

The officer's action was clearly over the line and contrary to OPD's policy. That officer should face a tough punishment if the ongoing internal investigation confirms the troubling details in this incident.

This case is particularly disturbing because last year OPD and other municipal police departments in Orange County tightened rules governing Tasers to prevent abuse.

The revision of the rules was warranted because throughout the country there have been complaints that Tasers are being used unnecessarily by police.

Under those revised rules, officers are prohibited from using a Taser unless a suspect is trying to escape or prevent an arrest. In the situation last week, the suspect was already under arrest, and was locked down. He wasn't going anywhere. The officer should have left it to the hospital's staff to get the urine sample needed for medical tests.

The Taser, which uses electrical current to momentarily incapacitate suspects so they can be arrested, is clearly a valuable tool. It has reduced shootings and injuries to officers. Yet public confidence in police is undermined when officers break the rules and resort to unnecessary force.

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