Family of Moberly Taser victim advocates for stricter police policies

Thursday, March 12, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Ten family members of Stanley Harlan, the 23-year-old man who was killed after Moberly police Tased him repeatedly during a traffic stop in August, discussed their experience with police use of the weapons on Wednesday night at a public meeting.

Harlan's sister Amber Maley, 25, struggled to compose herself and at times cried while she delivered a speech detailing Harlan's story to the people at the meeting hosted by the Coalition to Control Tasers at the Old Labor Temple.

"How do I explain this loss of life?" Maley said in her speech, struggling to hold back tears. "Our whole family has been torn apart. Our family destroyed."

Maley, who spoke on behalf of the Harlan family, said they were in Columbia speaking at the event on Harlan's behalf and wanted to prevent the future abuse of Tasers by law enforcement.

"No other family should have to go through this," Maley said.

According to previous Missourian reports, Harlan was pulled over by Moberly police after driving erratically in front of his mother's house in the early morning of Aug. 28. Officers then attempted to arrest him on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

Harlan had not been drinking and was not under the influence of drugs at the time of the traffic stop, Maley said. His mother, Athena Bachtel, alerted by the sirens and commotion in her front yard, witnessed the arrest.

Randolph County Coroner Gerald Luntsford ruled on Nov. 13 that Harlan's death was a homicide, according to previous reports, and it was determined that his blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit.

Harlan was Tased for a total of 31 seconds, and when Bachtel attempted to perform CPR on her unconscious son, she was threatened by the police with the same Taser, Maley said. Bachtel eventually called an ambulance.

According to a Jan. 10 story from The Associated Press, police reports stated that Harlan had been shocked first for five seconds, and then again for one second. It also reported that officers performed CPR on Harlan until the ambulance arrived.

Harlan was pronounced dead at about 2 a.m. at Moberly Regional Medical Center.

Since his death, her family has been routinely harassed by Moberly police, Maley said. At Harlan's funeral, police circled the funeral home, prompting the family to contact a lawyer to try to force the officers to leave, she said in an interview. 

"(Our family) is scared to death every day by the people who are supposed to protect us," Maley said in her speech.

The other featured speaker at the meeting was Redditt Hudson, a former St. Louis police officer who spoke of the need for strict regulation of police's use of Tasers.

He said there is a common misconception in the community that people who advocate for regulation of Taser use, or are critical of policing and police culture, are anti-law enforcement.

After leaving the police force, Hudson began working as the racial justice director for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. He said he has witnessed and heard numerous stories of improper use of Tasers by police while working in St. Louis. He warned in his speech that police departments without some form of independent oversight are more likely to abuse Tasers.

Interim Police Chief Dresner said in previous reports that he will send the Police Department's current Taser regulations to the Police Executive Research Forum for independent analysis. On March 2, Dresner said in a report to City Council that two officers had used Tasers improperly while performing arrests.

"I'm here for Stanley, and I'll continue to fight for my little brother," Maley said. "I'm not going to let him go away."

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