A lawyer for three Stanly County Sheriff’s deputies accused of tasering a North Carolina man over two dozen times, resulting in his death, said officers had a right to use deadly force because the suspect repeatedly grabbed for their guns.
Marlon Bryan Lewis, 29, allegedly fought officers and reached for their weapons during a scuffle in December 2016 and continued fighting even after deputies fired their stun guns, lawyer Scott MacLatchie argued. At one point, MacLatchie said Lewis grabbed the grip of one officer’s guns and refused to let go.
“I believe (the deputies) showed commendable restraint,” the attorney told the Charlotte Observer. “When someone tries to remove your gun from your holster, you are authorized to use deadly force. And they did not elect to do that here.”
The slain man’s family disagreed, however, and filed a lawsuit against the Stanly County Sheriff, the two deputies involved and the company that manufactures the Taser device they say caused their loved one’s death. Their complaint, filed this month, argues Lewis died “as a direct and proximate result” of being shocked 26 times in just five minutes.
The suit goes to contend that deputies broke department policy by tasering Lewis that many times and argued that one of the officers shouldn’t have even been using a taser, seeing as his certification for the device had expired a year earlier.
The family is seeking at least $250,000 in damages, according to the newspaper.
The drama unfolded shortly after 3 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2015 when Lewis made a distress call to 911. When officers arrived, Lewis’ behavior turned erratic and he remarked “someone is going to kill me,” according to a medical examiner’s report. That’s when the father of two got into a fight with officers, who tased him. No police body or dashboard cameras caught the scuffle, however.
MacLatchie said the 6 foot, 228 pound man was exhibiting “an abnormally high amount of strength” and seemed to feel no pain. The deputies eventually managed to restrain Lewis on the ground and arrest him before the autopsy report states he became, “unresponsive after several minutes after law enforcement agents ceased physical contact with him.”
Officers tried reviving Lewis, but it was too late.
According to the Observer, the medical examiner who completed Lewis’ autopsy said she believed a toxic amount of cocaine in the man’s system is what killed him — not the repeated shocks by officers. She noted, however, that Lewis had an enlarged heart, which put him at an increased risk of dying from the electrical shocks. A Taser log filed with the lawsuit showed one of the shocks lasted almost nine seconds.
The complaint not only alleges excessive force, but argued officers violated Lewis’ Constitutional rights protecting him from cruel and unusual punishment.
Stanly County Sheriff George Burris and deputies Andrew Furr and Timothy Hill have declined to comment on the case, as has Axon Enterprise, Inc, the Taser manufacturer.