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Mom sues South Dakota police for using Taser on 8-year-old daughter

Child reportedly thrown against wall by shock; police say girl was suicidal and they may have saved her life

A woman is suing a South Dakota city, its former police chief and four other officers for shooting her 8-year-old daughter with a Taser.

Dawn Stenstrom said in the suit that police from the city of Pierre used excessive force and violated her daughter's civil rights. 

An officer fired the electric shock device’s darts into the chest of the girl, who weighed 70 pounds, the lawsuit said. “The force of the electricity shot through her body, lifted her and threw her against a wall,” it said. “After the officers had stunned [the girl] into high voltage submission, they pulled the fishhook-like Taser darts from her chest, gave her emergency medical attention, bandaged the holes left by the razor-sharp hooks and called the ambulance.”

The incident occurred in October 2013, when the girl’s babysitter called police after seeing the girl holding a knife, with unknown intentions. The lawsuit was filed on July 24 in federal court and recently surfaced in media reports.

Authorities said the girl was suicidal and had turned the knife toward an officer. State investigators concluded that the officer’s use of the weapon was justified because it was the safest method to defuse the situation.

But Stenstrom disagreed, saying there were other ways for the four police officers to subdue the child and adding that Tasers can kill. At least 500 people have been killed by stun guns in the United States since 2001, according to Amnesty International.

Proponents argue that the weapons are safe, nonlethal alternatives to guns and have prevented thousands of deaths.

Dana Hanna, Stenstrom’s attorney, told the local news website Rapid City Journal that the girl suffered physical, psychological and emotional injuries. The former Pierre police chief told CNN news that police may have “saved this girl’s life.”

Stenstrom and her daughter, both members of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, have since moved back to the tribal reservation, CNN said.

Separately, Doug Barthel, the police chief for Sioux Falls, South Dakota, about 200 miles from Pierre, said Saturday that he wants to arm his officers with Tasers. He has requested $120,000 to equip each officer with the weapons, arguing that it could help protect officers.

With wire services

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