Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Would a Taser Have Made a Difference in the Outcome?


Investigators on the scene of a deadly shooting by San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies. (CBS)
 

What kind of response should EMS have when a person is reported to be acting violently and carrying a knife? We stage around the corner, or a few blocks away.

What about the police? They need to try to disarm the person and control things without anyone getting hurt, but that is not always possible.

According to the various articles in the news, two deputies arrived and confronted Yanira Serrano-Garcia, an 18 year old woman who had not been taking her medication.
 

Two deputies responded to the Moonridge Housing Complex at Miramontes Point Road, east of Highway 1, where the woman lived, Rosenblatt said. The family told dispatchers the woman was mentally ill and was located down the block with a knife, and that she refused to put the weapon down when asked.[1]

 

However, another article states that the police were provided with different information.
 

The information received by emergency personnel who responded to the incident was that the woman was acting erratically and violently and had a knife. The woman’s family asked her to put the knife down, and when she didn’t comply, family members called the fire department for medical assistance, Rosenblatt said.[2]

 

Another states –
 

The family told dispatchers the woman was mentally ill and was located down the block with a knife, and that she refused to put the weapon down when asked.[3]

 

No recordings of 911 tapes are quoted, but the information that was provided to the responding deputies might change how they approached her.

Should the family have tried to get unarmed EMS to respond to care for a violent armed patient? No.

Were they just trying to protect her? Probably.

What happened?

The two deputies confronted Yanira Serrano-Garcia and shot her at least once. She was pronounced dead on scene.
 

“I don’t know why they couldn’t have done better things instead of getting a bullet through her and trying to shoot her,” said Saul Miramontes, Serrano-Garcia’s cousin. “She was kind of sick — you know, at least they could have Tasered her or at least tackled her.”[1]

 

Tackling someone who has a knife is a very bad idea for everyone. It had Darwin award written all over it.

A Taser may be appropriate, but it should involve at least two armed people, one with the Taser and one backup with a firearm that is drawn and aimed at the person to be taken down. It is not considered appropriate to just drive up and use the Taser without making some attempt to get the person to put down the knife voluntarily.

One problem with the use of the Taser is that if you are close enough to use the Taser, and the person with the knife lunges toward you, you may be stabbed without being able to hit the person with the Taser.
 


 

Did either deputy have a Taser out? We do not know from any of the articles.

Why did only one deputy shoot? It may be that they were not positioned well and when the deputy who did shoot moved, he moved into the line of fire of the other deputy. Maybe the other deputy froze. Maybe the other deputy did not think that a shot was the appropriate response for the circumstances. There can be many other reasons. We do not know.

Was there some other reason that the deputy felt the need to shoot quickly (the shot is reported to have taken place within a minute of arriving on scene)?

There is another bit of information that has not been included in the more recent news reports. This is from a cached copy of one article.
 

Dyanna Ruiz, 12, said she had been walking to a friend’s house when she saw the deputy running away from a woman who had her arm raised and was chasing him with what appeared to be a knife.

“I saw the girl running at him with something in her hands,” Dyanna said. “I didn’t know what was happening. I was really scared about what to do.”

The deputy saw Dyanna, stopped and yelled at Serrano-Garcia, the girl said. When Serrano-Garcia kept coming at him, the deputy fired, Dyanna said.[4]

 

The deputies may have had a plan for controlling the situation that may have seemed reasonable with just the two of them and the person with the knife at risk. With a child/adolescent also at risk, the plan may fall apart. That is pure speculation on my part, but I have a lot of experience with plans falling apart, as does anyone who deals with emergencies.

Why was the statement of this witness removed from more recent versions of the article? I do not know.

Will a Taser always work? No. Sometimes, in spite of reasonable attempts to do everything right and protect lives, bad outcomes still happen.

Footnotes:

[1] Half Moon Bay woman, 18, fatally shot by deputy after lunging at him with knife, authorities say
By Erin Ivie eivie@mercurynews.com
Posted: 06/04/2014 05:56:45 AM PD Updated: 6 Days ago
Contra Costa Times News
Article

[2] Officer Who Killed Woman Felt His Life Was in Danger
Joan Dentler (BCN)
Friday June 06, 2014 – 09:51:00 AM
Page One
The Berkely Daily Planet
Article

[3] Half Moon Bay woman, 18, fatally shot by deputy after lunging at him with knife, authorities say
By Erin Ivie
eivie@mercurynews.com
Posted: 06/04/2014 05:56:22 AM PDT Updated: 6 Days ago
San Jose Mercury News
Article

[4] Woman, 18, shot dead by San Mateo sheriff’s deputy
Henry K. Lee and Kurtis Alexander
Updated 5:07 pm, Wednesday, June 4, 2014
SFGate.com
Cached version of the article. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Jun 5, 2014 00:40:18 GMT.

Woman, 18, wielding knife shot dead by San Mateo deputy
Henry K. Lee and Kurtis Alexander
Updated 8:46 pm, Friday, June 6, 2014
Article at the same link, but when I last checked at 18:00 6/10/2014, the part I quoted was not in the article.

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