Recent Posts

Recent Comments


Cop Land

« | Main | »

Mentally Challenged Philly Man Dies From Taser

By Wyatt Earp | October 8, 2010

Philadelphia police officers responded to a call yesterday in the Northeast section of the city. There, they met Patrick Johnson, an 18-year old man with the mental capacity of a 5-year old. Johnson was armed with a stick and acting violently. When he ignored requests to drop the weapon, the officers used the taser.

Johnson collapsed and later died at the hospital:

The family of a man who died after being shocked with a police taser told Eyewitness News he was mentally challenged. At around 12:30 Thursday afternoon, Johnson and another family member called 911. Police responded to reports of a “person with a weapon” at Johnson’s residence on the 6900 block of Souder Street in Northeast Philadelphia.

Police said when officers arrived, Johnson confronted them with a stick and at one point even tried to set the stick on fire. Johnson was acting very violently and when Johnson failed to respond to repeated verbal requests to calm down, a taser gun had to be used to subdue [him].

For the record, we have been to this house for disturbances 14 times this year alone, but that didn’t stop Philly’s Monday morning quarterbacks from demonizing the eeeeevil police officers.

[Cousin Michelle] Rynkiewicz added, “I think that the police used excessive force and it wasn’t needed. I feel like it’s ridiculous that they tased him. You can by just looking at him tell that he’s severely retarded and I believe they should have maced him or tried to tackle him instead of using a taser,” Rynkiewicz said.

Wow. Oh yeah, we’ll just tackle a violent 18-year old man who is armed with a stick. Then, when Patrick smashed the officer in the head and takes his Glock, we can feel better about ourselves. Sure, a couple of police officers will be dead, but at least there was compassion and understanding.

I feel sorry for Ms. Rynkiewicz’s loss, but the woman is living in a fantasy land.

Topics: Philly, The Job | 12 Comments »

12 Responses to “Mentally Challenged Philly Man Dies From Taser”

  1. Kim Says:
    October 8th, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I’ve constantly gone back and forth in my head about tasers and their use in LE. I vaguely remember when they were officially introduced to the public, it was with the understanding that they would be used the same as a sidearm. That instead of a gun, someone would get tased. If a gun would not normally be used in a situation, then a taser wouldn’t be used. Obviously, their use has gone beyond that concept.

    In this situation, I am not questioning the use of the taser. However, there have been situations where I wonder why they were used and sometimes wonder if they get used too freely at times.

    I know. Not the most popular line of thinking on my part, but it is something that does go through my head sometimes.

  2. Wyatt Earp Says:
    October 8th, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Kim – In Philly, it is used before the firearm. Lower in the force continuum, and considered “non-lethal.” Have taser strikes killed people? Sometimes. But then again, so have baton strikes and even punches. Most times, the taser knocks the person down, stopping the threat, and they have been modified over the years to be as safe as possible.

  3. Rob in Katy Says:
    October 8th, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    I have never subscribed to the theory that Police should not be constrained to only use “like” force. I don’t see why someone protecting me should jeopardize his life to subdue a perp, the bad guys make a choice. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens, but it could just as easily have happened if 5 guys tackled him. Shit happens, sometimes to the good sometimes to the bad. I know that the officers are feeling badly about this; my condolences to the family and the officers.

  4. Rick Says:
    October 8th, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    My sympathies to the family.But as Sean Connery said in the Untouchables,Malone: You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.

  5. Enano Siniestro Says:
    October 9th, 2010 at 12:03 am

    In our agency, the Taser is used for Aggressive/Assaultive suspects, just below Deadly Force. It is a “Less-Lethal” device, not a “Non-Lethal”.

    Same as the FN-303, but sadly a woman got hit in the eye and was killed by an FN-303 projectile in Boston a few years back.

    Both the Taser and the FN-303 hurt like hell, but are not to be used instead of a gun.

  6. Ingineer66 Says:
    October 9th, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Most of the Taser deaths that I have read about involved somebody hopped up on meth. Thanks for the background Wyatt, the first thing I thought of reading the article was that he was creating a disturbance at his home, so somebody he lives with called the police. So not really a time to badmouth the police if you are the one that called them for help with something you could not handle.

  7. Wyatt Earp Says:
    October 9th, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Rob – No one is happy about this, but there is a lot of misplaced blame being bandied about. And naturally, it is directed at the officers.

    Rick – Exactly. This could have turned out much worse for a lot of people, including the man’s family members.

    Enano – A guy I work with volunteered to get hit by it. He dropped like a stone and flopped like a fish. One of the other officers captured the video on an iPhone. We laugh about it now, but he wasn’t laughing at the time. He was screaming.

    Ingineer66 – Correct. A family member called the police because Patrick was out of control – again.

  8. Picky Says:
    October 9th, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I know they are developing that heat laser that subdues people by making them feel like they are getting burned. How close are they to making this a non-lethal law enforcement tool to subdue people (like pepper spray, etc).

    Also, being a nurse, I have to wonder: what did he die FROM? Did he have an underlying heart condition that was aggravated by the electricity, causing a heart attack? Because they don’t say what killed him, only that he died.

  9. PhillipC Says:
    October 9th, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    My niece who has behavioral problems lives with me. There are times when she has to be physically restrained to keep from hurting someone. At 4’6″ and 90lbs, she’s more trouble than her mother or my wife can handle, which leaves it to me. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to restrain someone who is psychotic, off their meds, on meth, or some other way slipped their bonds of civilized behavior should try it sometime.

    A friend of mine took her 14 year old autistic son in for bloodwork yesterday. It took six adult techs to hold him down to draw the blood.

    A taser against a fully grown man with mental illness who’s behaving violently and is armed, even with a piece of wood? It’s a shame the guy died, but the officers were trying to avoid hurting him and not get hurt themselves. Accidents do happen, and if they’d tried to use physical force or batons, someone could have hit the wrong place and left him a paraplegic or killed him anyway. Sometimes the average person doesn’t realize what violence really is, and that there’s not always an easy answer.

  10. CaptainAmerica Says:
    October 9th, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Why didn’t SHE tackle him or use HER mace on him?? After all she’s obviously an expert on subduing people…

    For the record where does a guy with the mental capacity of a 5 yr.old graduate from with a cap and gown???


  11. Picky Says:
    October 10th, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Captain America:

    Evidently he is the “No Child Left Behind” poster child.

  12. Sebastian Says:
    October 12th, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Bah… as if tackling people isn’t also going to occasionally (and probably a lot more often) kill someone because they hit their head the wrong way. Even pepper spray can kill on occasion.