Officers Ran Off After Firing Stun Gun That Set Man Ablaze, Video Shows

A burly man walks into the lobby of a small upstate police station followed by two officers. He is agitated and appears to be drunk. He staggers across the crowded room, pushes a small table aside, empties his pockets, repeatedly bangs on a glass partition, takes off some clothes, sits, stands, sits, and then gets back up.

The two officers, along with a third, mostly keep their distance while speaking to the man in a way that appears intended to calm him down. After about 20 minutes, she leaves the room, returns, and begins spraying her head and body with hand sanitizer from a large dispenser.

At that moment, the encounter, captured by a security camera, seems to become more tense. Officers approach the man, who is out of camera frame, and one fires a stun gun at him. Suddenly, the officers flee when the man re-enters the frame, his head and body on fire.

The disturbing images were released publicly Friday by Attorney General Letitia James, who opened an investigation into the October 30 confrontation after the man, Jason Jones, 29, of Catskill, New York, died last month. .

Ms. James said in a statement that her office’s investigation was continuing and that the images were being “released to the public to increase transparency and strengthen public confidence in these matters.”

Kevin A. Luibrand, an attorney for Mr. Jones’s family, said that he and his clients had reviewed the images about two weeks ago and that they corroborated what they believe happened.

“It just confirms it in the vividness that you can only capture one such incident,” he said.

Jones, once a local high school sports star, died in the burn unit at a Syracuse, New York hospital in December. The official cause of death has not been released, but Mr. Luibrand said that Mr. Jones’s lungs had been “destroyed” when he inhaled the flames while trying to put them out.

The episode at the police station began after officers responded to a call at a nearby bar around 1 a.m. on Oct. 30, Greene County, NY, district attorney Joseph Stanzione said in an interview last month. last.

It was unclear, Stanzione said, if Jones had been involved in causing the call, but he “headed” to the police station while officers were still at the bar.

In addition to showing the events that preceded the firing of the stun gun, the footage also shows the aftermath: officers returned and tried to help him, and another person who entered the lobby hugged Mr. Jones and rubbed his back. As the group waits for paramedics to arrive, Mr. Jones continues to exchange words with the officers.

Many hand sanitizers contain ethyl alcohol, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “evaporates easily at room temperature into a flammable vapor and is considered a flammable liquid.” The incidence of fires related to such disinfectants is “very low,” says the CDC, but “it is vital” that they are “stored safely.”

David Darling, the Catskill Police Chief, did not respond to calls seeking comment on Friday. He told The Times Union of Albany, NY, in November that Mr. Jones appeared drunk when he arrived at the police station.

“I think they were afraid of getting hurt, and that’s what started it,” Chief Darling told The Times Union, calling the episode “horrible.”

In an investigation into the use of stun weapons by officers, the best known is the Taser, USA Today and the Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism at Indiana University found “a pattern of careless, reckless and lethal use of the weapon involved in hundreds of deaths and injuries in the last decade. “

USA Today noted that no entity tracks whether law enforcement authorities adopt the myriad safety guidelines recommended by manufacturers and law enforcement training groups for the use of such weapons.

Brian Higgins, a criminal justice instructor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York who also instructs in the use of stun guns, said he specifically discusses in his training sessions that it is important to determine whether accelerators are present when considering whether to use stun guns. must use such weapons.

He said that if officers are properly trained, they should try to confirm whether any nearby liquids are alcohol-based.

“Most people, not everyone, knows that hand sanitizers are alcohol-based,” he said, adding: “Based on that, they shouldn’t have deployed their tasers.”

“He was an unarmed individual in a locked room with three officers,” Higgins continued. “They had several options at their disposal.”

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