Family Speaks Out Against Taser Use
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
Ashley Rhyan Stephens died early Thursday morning after being tased by deputies.
His sister, Miranda Stephens, wishes deputies would have used some other way to subdue her brother. She's still in shock that her older brother won't be coming home. She says deputies told her that as soon as he was tased the second time, he didn't take another breath. All she is left with is memories of her brother.
She got the call from the hospital about 6 A.M. Thursday morning.
"I went up expecting the worst and the worst was what we got," says Stephens.
Her brother, who was on drugs and looked to be having a heart attack, was on his way to the hospital in an ambulance. But deputies say he got violent, kicking out the rear window, forcing his way out of the ambulance, and then running down the street. They say they were forced to taze him. But Miranda says there should have been another way.
"With them knowing that his heart rate was so high and yet still tasing him scares me," says Stephens. "The training isn't enough to be aware of situations like that."
Columbia County Sheriff Bill Gootee stands by his statements from Thursday when he said he fully supported the deputy's actions.
Former sheriff and current Senator Steve Oelrich agrees. He thinks Stephen's drugs and weight were much bigger factors than the shot of electricity from the taser.
"The deputy has to make that decision," said Oelrich in a telephone interview. "That we have to get this person into custody, get him in the ambulance, we've got to use whatever tools we have available to them."
But Stephens' size may not have been as big a health problem as originally reported. Thursday, Deputies said he was 5'8", 350 pounds. But Stephens was listed as 6'2" and 275 pounds when he was arrested in June.
Miranda admits her brother had been to sent to drug rehab and was still fighting the addiction. But she wishes he was still around to fight it... for both he and his daughter.
"This could have possibly scared him enough to help him finally get over his problems," she says.
That wasn't the only thing he was fighting. According to the Baker County Sheriff, he was awaiting trial for theft charges from an April incident involving a tractor.
FDLE expects their investigation to take a month or two... mostly waiting on the medical examiner's report.
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