Chorley blind man tasered by police officer who mistook his white stick for a samurai sword fears for health (From Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen)
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Chorley blind man tasered by police officer who mistook his white stick for a samurai sword fears for health
9:07am Thursday 18th October 2012 in By Chris Gee, Reporter
A BLIND man hit in the back with a 50,000-volt Taser by a police officer who mistook his white stick for a samurai sword fears it could trigger a fatal stroke.
Colin Farmer, 61, who has suffered two strokes in recent years, was walking with the aid of the stick to meet friends when the taser weapon was fired.
Mr Farmer said he was so traumatised by the events he feared another stroke and ‘this one would kill me’.
He is now calling for the officer to be immediately suspended and disciplined.
Lancashire police said it had launched an urgent investigation into ‘what lessons can be learned’ and the matter had also been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Chief Superintendent Stuart Williams, the officer’s commander, has apologised to Mr Farmer and said he ‘deeply regretted what has happened’.
Mr Farmer said after being hit by the taser he was violently manhandled on the floor and handcuffed by the officer.
He said the incident left him bruised and distressed and damaged a bracelet which was a family heirloom his father wore during the war.
Officers had been dispatched following reports of a man armed with a samurai sword was roaming around Chorley town centre, where Mr Farmer had been on his way to his local pub.
Mr Farmer, a former company director who is registered as blind, said he thought he was being attacked by hooligans during the ‘terrifying’ incident, close to his Royle Road home.
He said: “I’m not in the best of health. If I have another stroke in the next few months then I firmly believe this will be a case of manslaughter.
“I wasn’t even aware the police were there. I heard a man shouting but it wasn’t clear, I thought he was shouting at someone else.
“I certainly didn’t know it was the police. I felt a thump in my back and I fell to the ground, hitting my head. When I saw the policeman I just kept saying, ‘I’m blind, I’m blind’.
“He knelt on me and dragged my arms behind me. The handcuffs were so tight I’ve still got bruises.”
Ch Supt Williams, who is responsible for policing in Chorley, said: “We have clearly put this man through a traumatic experience and we are extremely sorry.
“On Friday evening we received a number of reports that a man was walking through Chorley armed with a samurai sword.
“A description of the offender was circulated to officers and patrols were sent to look for the man.
“One of the officers who arrived believed he had located the offender. Despite asking the man to stop, he failed to do so and the officer discharged his taser.
“It then became apparent that this man was not the person we were looking for and officers attended to him straight away.”
George Farmer, 18, is the youngest of Mr Farmer’s five sons and lives with him.
He said: “All our family are angry and bewildered that this could happen. To deploy the taser was an inexcusable mistake but to then subject him to being manhandled, heavily restrained and cuffed behind his back is brutal beyond belief.
“Surely he should have seen the white stick and realised this was a vulnerable man.”
Mr Farmer and his family are now considering launching legal action.
He said at the very least the officer involved should have been immediately suspended from duties.
“There’s simply no excuse for such force to be used on me,” he said.
Lancashire Telegraph medical expert Dr Tom Smith said that the taser strike itself would not leave any physical effects, but problems could arise from the trauma of the whole incident.
He said: “If the victim in this case cannot put the events behind them it could certainly lead to stress, which in turn raises the blood pressure and increases the chance of another stroke.”
The IPCC yesterday said it had “decided to conduct an independent investigation into the incident”.
Malcolm Doherty, former Chairman of Lancashire Police Authority, said he thought the force’s current policy for taser gun use should stay as it is.
He said: “Taser guns are only deployed in a situation where officers feel they would be faced with a gun.
“I do not think officers should be routinely be armed with tasers or even firearms for that matter. Only fully trained firearms officers can operate taser guns. These same officers and those trained to use fire arms.
“In whatever we do there is always an element of human error in things and this cannot be taken away. Unfortunately, in this instance it looks like that is what has happened.”
The Police Federation have recently advocated the tripling of the number of tasers in the hands of police to 36,000 which they say would help keep officers safe.
A man carrying a samurai sword was later arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly.