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February 2006
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Burning Man goes on tour

Baylen Linnekin over at To The People was a little confused by my reporting of this very ‘rare’ event (tasering a man and setting him on fire), because he thought he was reading another report of the same incident, but no, it was another guy police set on fire with a taser gun.
If taser reps really believe this:

Officials with Taser International — which manufactures the nonlethal weapon that uses a shock to incapacitate dangerous people — said they’ve never heard of anything quite like this before.
“I would call this beyond a rare fluke,” spokesman Steve Tuttle said.

… then why are we looking at this:
Wisconsin:

When officers tried to subdue him, the Taser charge ignited the pepper spray and set his head on fire.

Florida:

A Taser probe pierced the pocket of his khaki shirt — and ignited the butane lighter inside. Crouch’s pocket exploded in flames.

North Carolina:

A man pursued by Cumberland County deputies burst into flames after he was shot with an electronic Taser weapon that delivers a shocking electric current.

I’m sure in the taser companies’ controlled testing zones, those tasers are quite safe, but in real life, there’s things like pepper spray, butane lighters, and gasoline that don’t mix well with high voltage (as well as some peoples’ health).
Note: the last story had one bit of potentially confusing reporting. I was thrown by this sentence:

[Deputy Bradley] Dean shot McKinnon when the man tried to get away and rolled him on the ground to put out the flames.

For a moment, I thought it meant that the deputy saw the man on fire running and shot him with his gun to get him to stop so he could put out the flames, and I thought “That’s a pretty messed up way to stop a burning man.”
Then I realized the correct order of events. 1. Man accidentally gets gasoline on him. 2. Man tries to run away. 3. Deputy shoots him with taser. 4. Man bursts into flame. 5. Deputy tries to put out flames.
As much as this situation lends itself to jokes, the point is clear. Tasers are not some perfectly safe way of subduing criminals, and to the extent that those using it feel that it’s safe, it’s putting the lives of citizens in danger.

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