Don’t Let Police Officers Fatally Tase Civilians

Target: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

Goal: Review qualified immunity ruling of lower court, which prevents prosecution officers who Tased and killed mentally ill man.

A circuit court has ruled that officers who fatally Tased a mentally ill man cannot be prosecuted for his death. Police were attempting to bring Ronald Armstrong to the hospital in accordance with involuntary commitment orders when they repeatedly Tased him, which ultimately caused his death. The orders were issued on the basis of his bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia making Armstrong a danger to himself, but not to others.

The North Carolina Fourth Circuit found that Officers Lt. Jerry McDonald, Sgt. Tina Sheppard and officer Arthur Gatlin Jr. did violate Armstrong’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights, but further ruled that they cannot be prosecuted due to qualified immunity. This ruling is based upon the belief that the officers in question did not understand they were violating his rights at the time of the incident. Although U.S. Circuit Court Judge Stephanie Thacker issued stern warnings as part of her ruling in an attempt to prevent future incidents, this doesn’t go far enough.

Tell the U.S. Supreme Court they must review this decision and provide specific guidelines for Taser use and dealing with non-criminal, mentally ill people.


Dear Justice Roberts,

In a tragic incident, police officers used fatal Taser force on a mentally ill man. Police departments are still evolving in their understanding of appropriate Taser use, and the Fourth Circuit used that as a basis for its ruling that the officers involved in this sad incident cannot be prosecuted because of qualified immunity.

At the time of Ronald Armstrong’s death, police were attempting to bring him to the hospital in compliance with involuntary commitment orders issued because his bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia were making him a danger to himself. U.S. Circuit Court Judge Stephanie Thacker agreed that his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights were violated, but cited qualified immunity and released the officers involved from responsibility.

We demand this ruling be reviewed and that the Supreme Court issue clear and specific guidelines with reference to Taser use and dealing with non-criminal, mentally ill individuals.

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Marcelo Freixo

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