Another Taser Death
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
The death comes just days after two people died in Jacksonville after being tased and a United Nations committee called the tool a form of torture.
It all started on the way to the hospital. Lisa McCartney, a friend of deceased Ashley Rhyan Stephens, called 911 because he was under the influence of drugs and looked to be having a heart attack. But not much later, after he got into the ambulance, he was dead.
"I promised him that he wasn't going to die," says McCartney. "I did the best I could. I called for help. Apparently that help wasn't good and it would have been better if I would have called a friend to take him to the hospital."
McCartney says Stephens was sitting on this wooden bench in bad shape about 5 A.M. He finally agreed to get in the ambulance and make the drive to Shands Lake Shore Hospital. But he never made it.
"I'm talking a three minute drive and he was dead," says McCartney. "His heart was racing. I pulled out my stethoscope and listened and I couldn't count his heart rate it was going so fast."
Less than 1.5 miles away, FDLE is investigating where Stephens was tased. It was in the median along U.S. 90 next to the Lake City Airport.
Sheriff's deputies say Stephens became extremely violent in the ambulance. The glass is still on the street from where they say he kicked out the window and forced his way out.
"The deputies reported that he was running frantically," says Columbia County Sheriff Bill Gootee. "He was running in front of cars. He almost got hit several times."
Gootee says the 5'8" 350-pound man still wouldn't calm down so a deputy tried to tase him once but missed. He hit him on the second attempt. Then the deputy had to also touch-tase Stephens before he could be put in the ambulance. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
"He (the deputy) did what he was supposed to do," says Gootee. "He was protecting himself, protecting the individual, protecting the community. I fully support his actions and what he did."
But not McCartney, who is only left with thoughts of 'What if?'
"In my personal opinion, Ashley Stephens would still be alive today to tell his mother he loved her and take care of his child if they wouldn't have tased him."
Stephens has been arrested several times in the past for drugs and probation violations.
His mother thinks the deputy was in the wrong. Since he wasn't a criminal, she says it shouldn't have happened on the way to the hospital.
The names of the two deputies on the scene have not been released as of Thursday evening. There's also no word on if they will be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the FDLE's findings.