Officers on trial for Taser use

Two police officers are on trial this week for allegedly using excessive force when they used a Taser stun gun on a suspect after a high-speed chase on May 3, 2014.

Video from the incident shows the officers using a Taser on the suspect twice, once while he was sitting in a car and again when they have him on the ground.

The judge-alone trial featured video from the police helicopter and from cameras attached to the Taser guns.

The Crown accused Royal Cayman Islands Police Service constables Cardiff Robinson and Austin Etienne of using a Taser on a man in custody, which prosecutors contend is excessive force.

Testifying Thursday, former RCIPS inspector Ian Brellisford, who introduced Tasers to the Cayman police and trained officers with the weapons, criticized the two officers for how they approached the situation and their use of the “less than lethal” weapon.

“I’m unclear as to why a Taser was fired first. I’m unclear as to why a Taser was fired second,” the inspector told the court.

Mr. Brellisford criticized the two officers for putting the subject on the ground on his stomach with the barbed probes from the Taser still embedded in his stomach or chest.

The Taser incident happened at the end of a car chase from George Town to East End. Defense attorneys contend the suspect tried to run police officers off the road.

When the car finally stopped, according to video and testimony, the officers opened the car door and demanded the suspect get out of the car. When the man did not respond, one of the officers shot him with a Taser and pulled him from the car.

Once they had the man on the ground and with one of his hands handcuffed, they used the Taser on him again. The suspect can be heard on video saying, “Don’t shock me no more.”

The man had a machete in the car with him, and defense attorneys asked Mr. Brellisford several times if the weapon warranted using the Taser. The former RCIPS inspector said the officers never should have gotten that close to the suspect, and instead he would have tried to de-escalate the situation without using a weapon.

Another witness, RCIPS Taser instructor Anthony Stewart, said the officers’ first priority should always be stopping violence or the threat of violence. As for a Taser, Mr. Steward said, “Once that threat is lessened or neutralized, you don’t use it.”

The trial continued in Summary Court after press time Thursday. It is unclear when Magistrate Philippa McFarlane will issue her ruling.

Carol Winker contributed reporting.