PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Pierre’s police chief is defending an officer’s use of a stun gun on an 8-year-old girl, but the girl’s parents say the officer went too far and should be punished.
The officer used the Taser after responding to a report of a suicidal girl Friday night, according to Chief Bob Grandpre. The girl was holding a knife to her chest, refused to drop it, turned it toward the officer at one point and then put it back to her chest, he said.
The officer deployed the stun gun from 5-6 feet away; the prongs hit the girl’s chest and stomach. Grandpre said the girl recovered quickly, was able to communicate with officers, and was checked over at the scene by ambulance personnel. She eventually was taken to a hospital and kept there for 24 hours before being released to her parents.
“He quite possibly saved the juvenile’s life that night,” Grandpre said of the unnamed officer, who remains on the job.
The chief also said police have to deal with the danger they are facing. “We can’t control if the threat is 8 (years old) or 80,” he said.
The girl’s father, Bobby Jones, said the officer should be disciplined for using excessive force.
“Tasers are for grown adults, not 8-year-old girls,” he told the Argus Leader newspaper. “They say it was for her own safety, but there is no justification for that.”
The girl was not seriously injured, but “she was in pain the whole night,” said her mother, Dawn Stenstrom.
Police described the knife as being 4 ½ inches long. Stenstrom said the knife was a paring knife.
“How much harm could she have done?” Stenstrom said.
Greg Connor, a professor and consultant from Georgia who is a police trainer specializing in the use of force, was surprised to hear of a Taser being used on a girl so young.
Conner said a suspect is less likely to be injured by a Taser than by some other police equipment such as a baton, and that every situation is different. But “it’s hard to imagine a situation where you’d need to use a Taser on an 8-year-old,” he said.
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