By Titus Lin and Pat Bryant
The police tasing of 17 year old black male Timothy Mack inside his classroom has tensions rising in the sleepy southern town of Jackson, Louisiana, fifteen minutes north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capitol.
On August 12, 2010, Jackson Deputy Marshall Robert Sanders was called to Jackson High School as a result of a heated verbal exchange between Mack and school principal Bobby Washington, also black. The argument centered on whether or not Mack had been smoking on school grounds, and Mack’s refusal to go to the principal’s office to be disciplined.
Upon arriving at the school, Sanders, a fifty or so white male, ordered Mack to come outside of the classroom, and said that he was taking the student to jail. When Mack refused to cooperate and turned to reenter the classroom, Sanders deployed his taser on Mack in full view of the other students. Mack was rendered unconscious and transported by emergency medics to a hospital, treated, and had taser probes removed from his body. He was then jailed.
The tasing policy for the Jackson Police Department states a taser may be used by an officer "to defend him or herself from what is reasonably believed an immediate threat of physical injury or death, to prevent suicide or self injury or to deter vicious animals." According to eyewitness accounts as well as Sanders’ police report, Sanders’ taser struck the teen in the back, as he was reentering his classroom. Despite this, no apology has been issued to Mack for the excessive force used in his arrest. Instead, he has been charged with resisting arrest and disturbing the peace and has been expelled from school.
The preliminary court hearing for Mack’s case will be on October 10. He will be represented by lawyer Winston DeCuir of the Baton Rouge firm DeCuir and Adams. In addition, Timothy Mack’s family is considering seeking a public hearing to appeal his expulsion, and allege that the school has thus far failed to follow proper expulsion procedure.
The tasering incident has drawn criticism and concern from civil rights organizations and local community members alike. Both the Louisiana NAACP and the Feliciana Chapter of the NAACP are monitoring the matter. Otis Bee, Mack’s father, stated that the police were “absolutely wrong shooting a student in school when no one was in danger.” Bee also claims that the incident began from “false accusations by Mr. Washington and his way of “railroading students from the school to Jackson’s alternative school.” Bee also says his son’s expulsion is unfair.
The use of tasers by police has had a controversial past. Although considered a ‘nonlethal’ weapon, their use has been linked with numerous incidents of serious injury and death; According to Amnesty International, over 350 taser-related deaths have occurred since 2001. In 2007, the U.N. Committee Against Torture issued a statement saying that the use tasers results in acute pain or death, can constitute a form of torture, and can even cause death. In a tragic incident last year, a 15 year old boy in Michigan died after being stunned by a taser by police.