The city of Kingstree and its insurer have agreed to pay $900,000 to an 86-year-old man who was zapped with a police officer’s Taser during a traffic stop and ended up in intensive care in a medically induced coma.
Officer Stephen Sweikata had asserted that he used his Taser on Albert Chatfield to save him from walking into traffic. The jolt caused Chatfield to fall and hit his head on the pavement, which resulted in a brain injury, said his attorney, Justin Bamberg of Bamberg.
The incident, which was recorded on a dashcam, occurred in mid-October and the pre-suit settlement was reached Nov. 10. Bamberg said the speedy resolution of the case represents “one of the most substantial Taser settlements that I’m aware of.”
Bamberg, a state representative, added that the “totality of this incident evidences a significant lack of Taser training as well as a lack of understanding of the constitutional use of force.”
He noted that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear last year in Armstrong v. The Village of Pinehurst that law enforcement officers cannot Taser a person unless he poses a threat to the officer or another individual.
“The directive to tase this 86-year-old grandfather was given to a junior officer by his superior, a lieutenant, on scene. We think the Kingstree Police Department and police departments throughout the country need to do more in terms of proper Taser use,” he said. “A Taser is not a life-saving device. It is a weapon.”
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SETTLEMENT REPORT – TASER INJURY
Injuries alleged: Brain injury
Case name: Settled pre-suit
Date of settlement: Nov. 10
Insurer: South Carolina Municipal Insurance Reserve Fund
Attorneys for plaintiff: Justin Bamberg of Bamberg Legal in Bamberg and Cezar McKnight of Lake City
Attorney for defendant: None