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DEATH RAISES TASER QUESTIONS;
AGITATED SUSPECT WAS STUNNED WITH DEVICE LAST WEEK, DIES MONDAY IN HOSPITALHILDA MUNOZ, DON STACOM And DANIEL E. GOREN; Courant Staff Writers Courant Staff Writer Maryellen Fillo and researcher Cristina Bachetti contributed to this report.
NEW BRITAIN --

Miguel Serrano seemed to be running from someone when he burst into an apartment house on Grove Street on Oct. 25 and began kicking on residents' doors.

After unsuccessfully trying to force his way into one apartment, he went down to the basement. Serrano, who died Monday at New Britain General Hospital, was smashing things, said the woman who lives in the apartment that Serrano tried to enter.

Her boyfriend called police.

``[Serrano] was downstairs by himself, and he was yelling, `Help! Help! Help!''' said the woman, who declined to be identified. ``We could hear the cops trying to talk to him, but he was still making noise.''

She said she and her neighbors were at the top of the basement stairs when they heard a long zap, and then police carried Serrano, handcuffed, up the stairs. A wire from a Taser gun was trailing behind, she said.

``I heard the Taser gun all the way up here,'' she said. ``He must have been on something, because he was still yelling.''

Serrano, 35, was hospitalized for a week at New Britain General Hospital. Family said they were notified earlier this week that he had died. The state medical examiner's office conducted an autopsy Wednesday that was inconclusive, and further investigation is planned, a spokesperson said.

No evidence yet points to the Taser as the cause of death.

Police said one of the officers at the scene used the Taser gun because Serrano became aggressive and lunged at officers when they tried speaking with him. Because he seemed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs or was suffering from an unknown condition, a police supervisor directed officers to have the man taken to New Britain General Hospital for an evaluation.

Police said their investigation is ongoing and declined to release any other details of the incident, including the names of officers involved, and the department's policies regarding the use of Tasers and training requirements were not made available Wednesday.

Serrano's cousin, Candida Rosado, said she is waiting to find out what happened.

``The first thing I asked my mother was why, how, what happened?' It was something we didn't expect. We don't know what happened,'' said Rosado. ``If it was a drug overdose, then we can accept it. What did he do for them to zap him?''

Bristol police said Serrano had been arrested about a half-dozen times over the past few years, mostly on shoplifting or probation violation charges. In two cases, he was charged with third-degree assault. But police officials found no record of Serrano fighting the arresting officers.

Records list him as living at 78 Summer St. in Bristol for the first five months of this year. Gary Barkley, a tenant at the multifamily house near the Prospect United Methodist Church, said he never heard of Serrano.

Serrano was most recently in trouble with the law on Oct. 25, when a Bristol Superior Court judge ordered him arrested for skipping a court appearance.

Serrano listed 55 Putnam St. in New Britain as his address when Bristol police arrested him Aug. 7 for allegedly trying to steal $133 worth of baby formula from the Stop & Shop on Route 6. He was charged with sixth-degree larceny and released on $1,000 bail, posted by Hartford-based Budget Bail Bonds.

Serrano appeared in court on Sept. 26 and was freed after promising to return Oct. 25.

Taser use has been criticized in recent months, after approximately 150 people died in the United States and Canada after being struck by Tasers, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU claims several medical experts believe drugs such as cocaine may make the human heart more susceptible to fibrillation.

The organization has pushed nationally to restrict the use of Tasers, recommending legislation that would require the weapons be used solely as an alternative to deadly force.

Jay Kehoe, a former Glastonbury police officer and eastern manager for Taser International, the company that makes the device, said that half to a third of the police departments in Connecticut use Tasers. The company recommends that the police deploy the weapon as they would pepper spray, to stop a suspect before officers must use blunt force, such as with nightsticks or beanbag guns.

Taser International trains police officers to instruct fellow officers on how to use the weapon. Each officer takes a two-day course on how the device works, how it affects the central nervous system, how it is fired and aimed, and how to use the device to take custody of a suspect. During that training, the officers themselves are shot with a Taser, Kehoe said.

The company recommends the instructors then teach a four-hour training course that includes classroom work on how the device works, when it should be used, practice of how to shoot it and a written test. Kehoe said the company then recommends a yearly update to that training.

The 50,000 volts of energy shot by a Taser has been proven safe, he said. The company has tested the device on 150,000 people.

The most dangerous part of ``tasing'' someone is the ``uncontrolled fall'' afterward, because the weapon temporarily immobilizes a suspect's muscles, he said.

``Imagine you are running as fast as you can away from the police and you get hit by a Taser,'' Kehoe said. ``You are running on asphalt and you can't put your arms in front of you to break the fall. Imagine the injuries.''

Referring to the New Britain death, he said, ``All I can say is, wait for the medical examiner's report, because it will tell you what actually happened. The toxicology reports and autopsy will tell you why this guy died.''
 

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This is why I don't support the use of tazers by law enforcement. Not everyone can tolerate a shock of 20,000 volts of electricity to the body. While this doesn't happen every day, its hardly an isolated incident. For this very reason, I do not support the use of tazers by law enforcement. For centuries, the use of defensive tactics did the job. So why change now? If cop fears the possibility of a bloody nose or lip, than its time to find another profession.
 

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I'm sorry, but this has to be the most asinine response I have ever heard. First, the TASER has yet to be found as the cause of death. More importantly, although I dont fear the possibility of a bloody nose and a fat lip (both of which I have endured) I dont look forward to it either. Having another tool in my tool box to defend myself and YOU cant hurt. Your false bravado may be fine for you, but remember this --- I'm not paid to fight, I'm paid to win!
 

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P.S. How may times has "defensive tactics" such as pressure points worked in an assess and elbows blowout? Give me the tazer (or OC). I liked the statement from the ACLU who is trying to ban the tazers. I think the residents should have called the ACLU to help them when this guy kicked in their door.

Also, time for an immigration check for the deceased and his bereaved family.
 

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HOOPCITYDETECTIVE said:
This is why I don't support the use of tazers by law enforcement. Not everyone can tolerate a shock of 20,000 volts of electricity to the body. While this doesn't happen every day, its hardly an isolated incident. For this very reason, I do not support the use of tazers by law enforcement. For centuries, the use of defensive tactics did the job. So why change now? If cop fears the possibility of a bloody nose or lip, than its time to find another profession.
Please tell me that you aren't a police officer? First off it's 50,000 volts, and since your so sure about D.T., give your dept. back your OC. Because when it first came out, didn't it "kill people" too? LMAO.
 

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HOOPCITYDETECTIVE said:
This is why I don't support the use of tazers by law enforcement. Not everyone can tolerate a shock of 20,000 volts of electricity to the body. While this doesn't happen every day, its hardly an isolated incident. For this very reason, I do not support the use of tazers by law enforcement. For centuries, the use of defensive tactics did the job. So why change now? If cop fears the possibility of a bloody nose or lip, than its time to find another profession.
brrrrrr...is it liberal in here or is it me?

Hey Hoopcity, I hear Hillary is looking for a running mate.
 
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