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Monday, December 3, 2007

500 Attend Jarrel Gray's Funeral

Guy Djoken
NAACP Frederick County, Maryland Branch

Over 500 people showed up at the Lynfield Event Complex last Wednesday to mourn the loss of Jarrel Gray, the 20-year-old man who died Nov. 18 after being struck with a Taser by a Frederick County, Maryland deputy sheriff. The death of Jarrel came while we were calling for an investigation of the use of a Taser on a student in a school by another sheriff deputy. The NAACP, Frederick Chapter is calling for a moratorium on the use of Tasers all over Fredrick County, Maryland and especially on school grounds.

It was troubling to see Sheriff Jenkins at a recent meeting with the Board of Education with a bag full of a pellet gun, an 8-inch knife and a sawed-off shotgun, all taken from students in Frederick County Public Schools. A board member asked him if Tasers were used to collect these and his response was "no". It seems to me that the deputy may be able to handle students without necessary resorting to excessive force. What I fail to understand from the Sheriff is the fact that despite these local incidents involving the use of the Tasers, he appears to be reluctant to take another look at the use of them.

Last year, Amnesty International USA reported that in seven cases -- including three in 2005 -- the medical examiner or coroner performing the autopsy has listed TASERs as a primary cause of death and has classified the death as a homicide. In an additional 16 of the 152 cases the medical examiner or coroner has cited TASERs as a contributory factor in death. Amnesty International believes there may be more cases in which TASERs cannot be ruled out as a possible factor in the deaths. Recent studies have cited the need for more research into potential adverse effects from TASER shocks on people who are agitated, under the influence of drugs or subjected to multiple or prolonged shocks.

Such facts should be sufficient for our elected officials and law enforcement to take a second look and eventually classify tasers as deathly weapons. Such a classification alone from the current flawed argument stating that "… studies have proven the weapon, considered non-lethal, is safe and effective". The word proven in this case is, to say the least, not accurate. As long as those carrying these weapons keep defending this argument, we will keep risking the life of innocent people. If anyone of you can look into the eyes of someone who has lost a dear one as a direct result of a Taser and tell them honestly that Tasers don't kill, I will be impressed.

To me, those who are claiming that Tasers are proven non lethal are reminding me of those who a few years ago, were claiming that global warming is a "hoax".

For those of you accusing me for not taking a stronger stand, I can only ask you to join us in calling for an independent investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the Maryland Attorney General Office.

Please email, call or fax the numbers below and state that you support the Frederick County NAACP Call for an Independent investigation of the Fredrick County, Maryland Sheriff' s office on the use of Tasers and let us know by email: You may also assist by contacting them directly if you prefer.

Maryland Attorney's General contact:
Tell 1 (888) 743-0023; Email:

Department of Justice: Phone 410-265-8080; Fax 410-277-6677; Email

We need to be respectful of the law of the land while we work to ensure enforcement efforts do not include Tasers until studies have clearly shown they can be used in a non-lethal manner. We just need to work together with a clear and common objective.

I will end today by inviting you all to join us on Thursday, December 13th at 7:00PM during the end of year gathering of the NAACP. We will have a lot to share with you on a strategy to demand and obtain justice and respect. We meet at Asbury Methodist Church 101 W All Saint Street in Frederick, Maryland. I look forward to seeing you there.

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