Almost five years ago, a Lake Charles homeowner discovered a local man on his property. He chased him away and pursued him to the Nelson Pointe apartments. Lake Charles Police and Calcasieu Sheriff’s officers responded to the scene. A scuffle was said to have occurred, and a Lake Charles police officer shot him with a Taser as other law enforcement personnel worked to place handcuffs on the man.
The man collapsed and sadly died on the way to the hospital. In response, his widow and three children filed a wrongful death claim against the city, the sheriff’s office and the homeowner who chased after him in the fatal accident.
The Calcasieu sheriff defended the use of Tasers, arguing that they are necessary to ensure the safety of his officers. However, there was no indication that the victim was armed, nor was there any explanation offered in a news story as to why a Taser was necessary to subdue a man who was already surrounded by law enforcement officers. As the trial date approached, both the city and sheriff’s office elected to settle the wrongful death claim by each paying $125,000. The claim against the homeowner is still set to proceed to trial.
In settling the wrongful death action arising from the fatal accident, at least one Lake Charles city councilman objected, saying he did not believe that bad behavior ought to be rewarded. Nevertheless, the settlement was approved, though with no admission of wrongdoing. Clearly, law enforcement personnel have a difficult job to do, and yet they also must act with a reasonable duty of care. Whether that duty was breached would arguably have been the focal point of any trial, though the settlement avoids that legal determination. For their part, the widow and children may feel they have accomplished their mission to hold negligent parties accountable for wrongful conduct. It will be interesting to see how the trial against the homeowner turns out.