Why The Lethality of Tasers At The Hands of Rogue Cops, Needs To Be Exposed and Eradicated
Two American-based Nigerian men have died within three years of each other, at the hands of police officers who exacted a level of brutality that was absolutely not warranted.
These stories of police brutality and the Black victims that pay the ultimate price have become standard news items that filter through timelines with urgent frequency. It’s a realistic expectation to be alerted to a viral offering — featuring uniformed officers hovering over road kill, as the false testimonies describe how the brute on the ground asked for his untimely demise.
The latest headline isn’t getting much attention, but based on the troubling details surrounding the senseless murder of Nigerian-American, Chinedu Okobi, a Bay Area resident and doting father of a little girl — this unbearable tragedy contains all the reasons why law enforcement has to be over-hauled — to halt this uncensored system of deadly force against people of color.
As the news of Okobi’s killing made the rounds on social media platforms, it was tearfully confirmed by his London-based sister, Ebele Okobi, who happens to be Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, Africa. She also confirmed her dead brother suffered from a mental illness. Her grief is beyond words, and in a heart-wrenching message to honor her loss — Ebele touchingly paid tribute to the “genuine soul” who did nothing to deserve what befell him.
“His name is now one of too many names.” “Chinedu Valentine Okobi. He was a person. He was my little brother, he was a father, he was loved. Now he is gone, and our hearts are broken.”
My heart is also broken, as I observe the photo of the smiling young woman, who is also of Igbo descent and looks like she could be my cousin. That beautiful disposition has faded into a shell-shocked and sobered template — that is inconsolably rattled by the reality of her brother’s fate.
Matthew Ajibade is the other victim, who suffered from mental challenges, and ended up being subjected to hours of violent acts at the hands of his badged captors, who relentlessly tortured him until his last breath.
The similarities in how these vulnerable men were brutalized doesn’t just involve the fact that they were both mentally handicapped. There’s also the method of “subduing” them, that would ordinarily not be considered a life-threatening technique — if the officers were mindful enough to utilize the gadget of choice — lawfully and humanely.
Tasers are “electronic control devices” commonly used by cops who need to destabilize a feisty encounter, without causing permanent harm. They’ve been categorized as “non-threatening” weapons that “are designed to tilt the advantage” back to the officer during a confrontation that’s heightened by the aggressiveness of the suspect.
In other words, cops aren’t necessarily trained on how to safely use Tasers, because unlike lethal weapons like guns, that can demand a “shoot to kill” response — the use of these electronic devices are guided by the assumption that officers are adequately trained to effectively assess varied situations — with the level of analytics that successfully produces the best possible outcome.
But only the worst case scenario happened for Ajibade and Okobi, who were two Black men with the glaring disadvantages of sturdy builds and the mental condition that dictated their reluctance to diligently cooperate with the police officers — that were determined to discipline them at whatever cost.
Ajibade’s outcome was a bloody massacre, as he was forcibly removed from his home; bound and gagged on his way to the cell where he was beaten repeatedly and tasered more times than the legal limit — in areas of the body that included his genitals.
Okobi may have been experiencing the effects of his illness as cops noticed a vehicle “running in and out of traffic,” and once he was pulled over, all hell broke loose, as we’re told that he allegedly began attacking one of the sheriffs, which led to four others running over to defend their overwhelmed comrade.
Things evidently got out of hand, and the only option was to tame the victim with a Taser.
That decision was a deadly one, and based on the recommendations on how to safely subdue someone who is difficult to restrain, especially in a public area, it’s quite clear that the officer who killed Okobi, purposely exceeded the number of applications that are within the safety code.
After the torture session was over, and the victim stopped being a threat, it was determined that he had also stopped breathing. Okobi was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead after attempts to resuscitate him failed.
The ongoing investigation is hoping to unearth pertinent details that will answer the pending queries centering on how and why the five officers were unable to diffuse a situation — that could’ve been professionally handled without the reckless use of a device that wasn’t supposed to stop the victim’s heart and cause his death.
Once you do some digging, you will discover that for the past few years, the police force has been under fire after gathered evidence, inspired by the number of deaths that have resulted from the unwarranted use of Tasers by rogue cops — exposed another jarring element of police brutality.
The dangerous epidemic of gun violence is still the preferred default for bigoted cops, who prefer to shoot first and ask questions later when dealing with Black lives.
But we now have to contend with the violence of non-lethal weapons, that share similarities with mace and batons — but easily turn into deadly devices when placed in the hands of murderous men and women with badges.
According to the findings of Reuters, and a released 2017 report about the increasing dangers of “shock tactics,” at least 1,042 deaths were as a result of the use Tasers, and good amount of those cases necessitated a wrongful death law suit.
There’s also the 2012 article from the American Heart Association, that recommends practicing caution when using Tasers because of its lethality when users disregard the guidelines, and cause harm in ways that could stop the heart of the victim and lead to cardiac arrest.
Despite the proof of what the abuse of privileges when carrying Tasers can exact — law enforcement is presently battling the irresistible obsession harbored by dysfunctional officers — who are prone to giving suspects multiple volts of shock treatment that are intense enough to zap the life out of them.
Both Ajibade and Okobi were suffering from mental deficiencies, and this fact makes their brutal deaths heartbreakingly tragic, when you consider how the officers succumbed to their bigoted instincts when it came to subduing men that they deemed worthy of extinction.
Tasers aren’t meant to kill — they are only supposed to be utilized in cases when the officers aren’t able to successfully control the subject, and are forced to quickly contain the situation before it gets out hand.
But in recent years, the findings that prove just how deadly these devices have become, expose the alarming truth of how police officers are relying more and more on the shock effects of “non-lethal” weapons as an added alternative to their dangerous gun toting tactics.
There’s also the transparent incentive that is embedded in the extreme policing of predominately Black neighborhoods, and how the “anything goes” approach delegates the potent hostility between ruthless cops and the weary residents, who are mercilessly on the edge of precipice.
After a thorough study, that examined the years between 2012–2014, it was proven that Baltimore police lead the charge when it comes to excessive use of Tasers. And most of the instances when these devices were employed didn’t require that method of discipline, based on the non-threatening factor.
According to the data assembled by the Baltimore Sun and released in 2016, these large number of Taser attacks, concentrated in the Baltimore area, that drew enough attention to encourage further investigation, are more rampant in areas that house mostly Black residents or households with substantially low median income.
So not only are Black communities terrorized by the consistent threat of gun violence, but there’s the troublesome addition of deadly use of Tasers, that target unarmed suspects that don’t pose the kind of danger to officers, who lazily rely on these devices for low-grade incidents.
In response to the Sun’s research results, Baltimore Police Commissioner, Kevin Davis, had this to say:
“Who suffers the most when police departments have deficient policies and procedures? Minorities and poorer communities suffer.”
The disturbing results initiated a long-overdue investigation by the Justice Department, to verify whether or not Baltimore police officers are guilty of “violating federal civil rights laws” when it comes to abusive treatment exacted on residents — through the systemic use of physical violence with the assistance of lethal and non-lethal weapons.
Over the past few years, the sudden need for more Tasers forced the police department to triple the number of orders to 1,700, and this activated trend posed a red flag, as experts confirm the seriousness of this direly neglected issue — that showcases how cops are misusing Tasers with alarming frequency.
The state of Maryland dutifully serves as the graphic illustration of how law enforcement engages in methodical gross negligence through the actions of officers who unlawfully rely on Tasers to diffuse situations that don’t apply.
60 percent of those hit by Tasers in Maryland were described by police as “non-compliant and non-threatening,” as opposed to making threats or using force. In Baltimore, police characterized suspects as non-threatening in 98 percent of cases.
And even worse:
In more than 100 incidents, Baltimore officers discharged the weapon for more than 15 seconds — exceeding the limit for Taser use recommended by the weapon’s manufacturer, the Justice Department and policing experts.
This damning report is undoubtedly the ammunition that the San Mateo County DA’s office will have to rely on when examining the circumstances of Chinedu Okobi’s death. It has to be determined if he would be alive today — if the five officers who tried to restrain him, had followed the rulebook by empathetically accommodating his unique needs.
The name of the rogue officer who administered the Taser attack on Okobi is still being withheld, and we are in the dark when it comes to the detailed bullet points of how long the victim was tortured and where on his body the device was aimed.
Based on additional findings from the Sun’s report:
Officers across Maryland failed to heed other safety recommendations from Taser International and the Justice Department, including to avoid repeated drive-stunning and chest shots.
For Okobi’s heart to have stopped, it seems apparent that the Taser was focused on his chest for an extended period of time, with the intention of killing him.
In early 2017, the Baltimore police announced that in response to the newly implemented rules, that strictly regulates the use of shocking devices by forcing officers to adhere to a more disciplined and appropriate response to activated events — there was a recorded steep decline in the number of reported Taser incidents in 2016.
And because of the overwhelming evidence of systemic misconduct by local police officers when it comes to the brutal application of devices in situations that require far less violence — Maryland remains the only state in the country that carefully monitors Taser use by officers.
But this is a nationwide crisis that has to be exposed and eradicated because Black lives are at stake.
Matthew Ajibade, Chinedu Okobi and countless others have paid the ultimate price, simply because of the callousness of rogue officers who lacked the proper training and skill set that was needed to properly engage in ways that produce ideal results.
And for the two Nigerian-American men, who relocated to a country that was meant to be the safe haven that provided a decent existence, as they managed the symptoms of their mental illness — their criminal end is hard to digest when you consider the fragility of their temperament — and how their Blackness and physicality rendered them violent enough to terminate.
The lethality of Tasers in the hands of hateful police officers who would rather use shock guns on fleeing Black teenagers, and risk killing them, as they’re knocked to the ground, and left unconscious by a crushed skull — instead of the old fashioned chase and capture — has to be dissected and tackled with furious immediacy.
In the meantime, the family of Chinedu Okobi have to remain in limbo for ten whole weeks because that’s how long it will take for the formal investigation to be completed.
And, as another Black life is extinguished by any means necessary, in broad daylight, and with the fundamentals of White supremacy as the guide of the streets — there’s also the double whammy of the mishandling of the mentally ill and how that level of recklessness also needs to be examined.
This is the time for justice and the promise of disciplinary actions against police officers who needlessly shoot to kill and lazily turn Tasers into instruments of death.