Rifle officers Tased man in handcuffs last year
RIFLE – Rifle police also faced criticism during a November trial for using Tasers on a handcuffed man lying on the ground.During trial, Dominic Pino’s attorney, John Sullivan, said Pino was Tased as many as 14 times on the night in question, including multiple times after he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. Sullivan accused the officers of “a little bit of cowboyism.”Sullivan argued Pino injured a police officer and resisted only because being shocked by a Taser forced him to respond.Jury foreman Liz Chandler said the predominant opinion in the jury room was that officer Vaughn Miles showed incredible restraint in backing up about 130 feet down the sidewalk while Pino continued walking, and that the Taser was a good choice to get Pino under control initially. But she said most jurors felt it was excessive to Tase Pino about four more times after he was handcuffed and lying on the ground.”He’s lying on the ground with two police officers there. He is handcuffed and they continue to Tase him. That is where I have a problem,” she said. “I’m a large animal veterinarian and I routinely restrain 1,000 pound animals who aren’t very fond of me. I have yet to have a need to Tase one.”Pino received “drive stuns” when he was on the ground. That’s a shock directly from a Taser instead of through wires from the gun connected to probes that penetrate the skin. Drive stuns cause pain to gain compliance, while a shock from the probes is meant to physically immobilize someone. Some jurors had a problem with the Tasing while Pino was on the ground.”I would be hesitant to say it was unanimous because I don’t want to speak for anyone, but certainly a predominant opinion in that room was that it was an excessive use of Tasers,” Chandler said. “I don’t think there is justification for it.”Chandler said the official reason for the continued Tasing was that Pino could have stood up and injured himself by falling over drunk with his hands cuffed behind his back.”I can buy that, but I also think that if an officer would have just sat on (Pino’s) feet, he’s not going to do anything. Especially when every time they hit him with the Taser, it made it worse. It did not make it better,” Chandler said. “The definition of stupidity is when one continues to do the same thing but expects a different result. I would put it in that category.”Pino was arrested in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2006, by Rifle police and Garfield County deputies. He was found guilty of one count of second-degree assault on a peace officer with a “heat of passion” finding, one count of third-degree assault and three counts of reckless endangerment. Not-guilty verdicts came in on one second-degree assault charge and one count of criminal mischief. Authorities said Pino repeatedly pushed a man in a Rifle bar before heading out into the streets with his wife and mother, where he met with Rifle police. Pino’s mother, Consuelo Pino, kicked an officer in the groin during the incident, and pleaded guilty to felony menacing. She was sentenced in February 2007 to 90 days of home detention and 80 hours of public service. Dominic Pino will appear for sentencing on Jan. 18.Chandler said she believes Pino’s rolling, thrashing and kicking on the ground were caused by the Taser shocks. That’s why the jury made the finding of “with provocation” or “heat of passion” on the second-degree assault on a peace officer charge, she said.”The way the law was explained to us, provocation means that yes he assaulted, but he only did so because of an unreasonable provocation, and any reasonable person would have responded that way,” she said. “He wasn’t threatening anybody. He wasn’t hurting anybody until he was Tased.”However, putting herself in the shoes of police, Chandler said it’s difficult to think clearly when adrenaline is rushing. A younger officer testified that before arriving at the scene, he’d never heard his sergeant sound so scared over the radio, she said.”I think it was a very scary situation for the officers,” she said.Police Chief Daryl Meisner said Pino was Tased because he was still kicking and fighting while he was on the ground.”Because he was still resisting, (drive stuns) were applied to gain control,” he said. “The sooner you gain control, the better it is for everyone involved. It reduces the risk of injury to bystanders, officers and suspects.”Meisner said any time officers physically engage a suspect it increases the risk of injuries.”Striking somebody with a baton creates pain, much like a Taser application could create pain; however, the injury risk created by a baton is much greater than being struck with a Taser,” he said.Meisner said Tasers, like any new technology in law enforcement, have come under criticism and attack because they’re new, but he believes they are an effective tool that minimizes the risk of injury.”There will be criticism,” he said. “We understand that. … We’re also charged with arresting people and we have to have the appropriate techniques and tools to take them safely into custody.”Asked about Chandler’s comments, Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch said, “I believe all of those officers were reviewed for the use of the Taser and were cleared for that. I don’t have any opinion about their use of Tasers because I don’t run that policy. I would just say that it’s very easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback and look at what officers do and say they should or should not have done it.”Fitch prosecuted Pino’s case at trial. Pino will appear for sentencing on Jan. 18.Contact Pete Fowler: email@example.com
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