Police Taser ‘didn’t cause immigrant’s death’

A French judge has absolved police of blame for the death of a Malian immigrant who was shot twice with a Taser gun, saying he died of a genetic blood disorder.

Police Taser 'didn't cause immigrant's death'
Phot: Edi Fortini

The 38-year-old hammer-wielding man was shot twice with the stun guns – which use an electrical charge to incapacitate a person – by police in the Paris suburb of Colombes after an altercation with a friend in November 2010.

When officers attempted to check his identity papers, the man seized a hammer to beat them back, injuring four of the eight police who pursued him through the apartment block.

A judge ruled that the Taser shots "did not play a direct and certain role" in the man's death, adding that an autopsy showed it was a result of the genetic sickle cell disease from which he suffered.

A lawyer for the Malian's family said they would appeal the ruling, which was made last week but only became public on Monday.

Police shot the heavily overweight fugitive twice with Tasers, which fire a pair of charged darts into a target to stun him with 50,000 volts. He was also tear-gassed and struck with a baton.

Officers eventually managed to arrest him and were bringing him out of the building in the block's elevator when he collapsed. Paramedics were already on the scene to treat injured police but could not revive him.

The boss of Taser's French subsidiary, Antoine di Zazzo, said in reaction to the court ruling that it showed that once again the weapons made by the US-based firm had been wrongly accused of being at fault.

Thousands of Taser guns are used by police across France.   

Human rights activists have long criticized the stun guns, challenging previous claims from the manufacturer that they are a safe, non-lethal alternative to handguns.

Taser has a long history of successfully challenging legal cases and suits involving its devices, mostly in US courts.

Data collected by rights group Amnesty International showed that at least 500 people have died since 2001 in the United States following their arrest or incarceration after being shocked with Tasers or similar electrical weapons.

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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”