County changes tack in Taser lawsuit

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County has backed off recent claims that the company supplying officers with Taser stun guns misrepresented the product and used biased studies to demonstrate its safety.

Negative statements about Taser International have been changed and a cross claim has been refiled in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, said Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway. He met last week with other county officials and attorneys to alter controversial wording because he and Gwinnett Police Chief Charlie Walters still support the use of Tasers.

"I believe Taser has adequately tested their product, and their training materials are good materials," Conway said.

"It wasn't misrepresented or unsafe. We continue to use Tasers. I feel they are a good tool."

However, the county still believes Taser International should pay if a jury finds Tasers contributed to the death of inmate Frederick Jerome Williams. Williams died May 27, 2004, after struggling with deputies and being stunned multiple times with a Taser.

The cross claim filed by the county in response to the lawsuit last week also shifts blame to the jail's contracted medical provider, Prison Health Services. It says PHS should pay if substandard medical care contributed to Williams' death.

The Taser, used in probe mode, fires two probes tethered to the weapon by an insulated wire, which delivers electrical shock, disrupting the nervous system and incapacitating the targeted subject.

In drive-stun mode, the Taser is applied directly to the body of the subject like a stun gun, using pain to gain compliance from an inmate.

Taser International is the nation's largest provider of stun guns for law enforcement.