Touched by a taser

Sports blotter: "More Pittsburgh pimping" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  June 13, 2007

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Touched by an angel
Or by a cop, anyway. Or by the end of a cop’s Taser gun, if you want to be literal about it. Such was the fate of DerMarr Johnson, who — aside from being one of the harder-luck pine-riding 6-foot-9 guards in the NBA — just made himself the latest entry in what is becoming a shockingly long list of major-college or pro athletes who have been Tasered by police during messy arrests.

Johnson was with two women — Emerald Thomas and Nephataeria Jenkins — outside the Purple Martini, a club in Greenwood Village, Colorado, when the incident occurred. According to his lawyer, Johnson tried to break up a fight between the two women, who were later arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. Police would only say that the Nugget was “touched briefly with a Taser to gain his compliance with the officer’s orders,” and was charged with resisting arrest and interfering with police.

The list of those who have been Tasered now includes many faces warmly familiar to you, the concerned fan — people like recently released Cincinnati Bengal linebacker A.J. Nicholson (actually Tasered in college, following an alcohol-possession arrest, of all things), stone-handed Vikings wideout Travis Taylor (nightclub incident), Dale Davis (hotel lobby freakout), hockey stars/goons Bob Probert and Rudy Poeschek (the latter for driving over lawns and mailboxes while his five-year-old daughter was in his car), and, of course, Maurice Clarett. Ah, but who cares, we’re here in Boston, the home of the well-behaved, Bill Belichick–coached “character” athlete, right? Well, yes — but let’s not forget that still-on-the-roster Celtic Michael Olowokandi was once arrested for refusing to leave a Minneapolis club called Tiki Bob’s.

The use of the Taser is increasingly common and, I have long argued, increasingly raises the chances of an accidental death involving some high-profile jock who was otherwise minding his own business in a nightclub parking lot with an Escalade full of E-ed out strippers. When that happens, we are going to see the mother of all lawsuits.

Just this past week, in fact, a woman was killed outside a homeless shelter in Oklahoma City after being Tasered by police. The woman, a 6-foot, 260-pound indigent named Milisha Thompson, was already handcuffed and on the ground (a common posture of Taser victims; there have even been cases of handcuffed children being Tasered). Her name has been added to an Amnesty International–compiled list of some 250 people who have died in recent years after being Tasered. Many of those victims succumbed to the notorious “drive-stun” technique, in which police depress a Taser against exposed skin. We’ve seen that technique used with jocks — in particular with a Purdue football player named Eugene Bright, who hit a cop during a campus party that was being broken up.

Anyway, you heard it here first: the scandal is coming.

Work of the Sun Devil
Some housecleaning from a sad old matter: former Arizona State running back Loren Wade was sentenced this past week for the second-degree murder of fellow former Sun Devil Brandon Falkner, who was shot in a nightclub parking lot in Scottsdale two years ago.

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