Man shot by Taser sends city settlement offer

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | 9:00 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A man who was shot with a Taser in a suicide standoff in July has presented a settlement offer to the City of Columbia.

Cavanaugh Noce, the City of Columbia’s legal counsel, received a letter from Todd Johnson of Baty, Holm and Numrich, P.C. in Kansas City on Dec. 10. The letter outlined the man’s claims and settlement offer of $500,000, 40 percent of which would be paid to Johnson if granted.

The City of Columbia has retained a lawyer from St. Louis, according to City Counselor Fred Boeckmann. He declined to comment any further on the city's plan of action.

On July 25, Columbia police negotiated with Phillip Lee McDuffy, 45, for 90 minutes as he stood on the Providence Road overpass above Interstate 70 and threatened to kill himself.

While he was leaning near the ledge of the overpass, Columbia Police Sgt. Dan Beckman shot him with a Taser. McDuffy's lawyer claims in the letter he was then confused and afraid of being killed. He was shot again by Officer Sean Dutton. McDuffy fell 15 feet onto the cement below, the Missourian reported earlier.

Police later claimed that McDuffy was only standing at a height of 5 feet when he was first shot by a Taser, but he then moved toward the middle of the bridge which was 15 feet above the ground. Four Taser shots were fired at him in all.

He broke his jaw and suffered fractures in several of the bones in his right rib cage and left and right arms. He was listed in critical condition at University Hospital, where he stayed for eight days.

On Sept. 12, Columbia police released the results of an investigation that found the use of a Taser on McDuffy was appropriate within their protocol. No officers were found at fault for the incident and no disciplinary action was taken.

The report did find that there were missteps taken in decisions made at the scene and that the police needed to address the problems that occurred.

Johnson argued in the letter that Columbia police should not have shot McDuffy with a Taser because it is their policy not to use a Taser on individuals who are unarmed or standing near a ledge.

Johnson also argued that the police “only believed Mr. McDuffy would jump off of the bridge for the first 15-30 minutes that he was at the location.”

After the incident, McDuffy underwent three surgeries and “has yet to regain normal range of motion in his arms and his dominant arm is essentially locked at the elbow area,” Johnson wrote in the letter.

Missourian reporter Tram Whitehurst contributed to this report.

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Charles Dudley Jr December 17, 2008 | 3:50 a.m.

This was clearly a case where a well and highly trained Crisis Intervention Team would or might have been able to talk this man down and out of further danger.

If we look at the video and you were the one in Crisis at that time how would you feel seeing a horde of police officers with fully equipped weapons belts swarming around like a bunch of cowboy commandos just looking to take that "one shot". Nothing against law enforcement in general but this is often the image that they present into the public eye.

I am all for "police presence and protection" but in all cases there must be some "better accountability by those police officers" and this is clearly a case of that by watching the video.

I was talking to a highly trained member of a Crisis Intervention Team and there are always better options and this special training puts more "tools" in the "tool box" of "each police officer who goes through this kind of training" so these things as described above can be avoided at all costs if at all possible.

I can hear the "nay sayers" crying on this thread now but I will place money that neither are they mentally disabled nor do they know how valuable nor realize how valuable this C.I.T. program can be to the "entire community" whether mentally disabled or not.

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