A man who was chased out of a restaurant in Philadelphia on Friday night caught on fire when security officers used a taser on him, a video shot by a bystander shows.
“So I witnessed a man catch on fire after being tased last night,” Pat Tackney tweeted on Saturday morning. The video shows a man on the street outside of Jim’s Restaurant on South Street wrestling out of the grip of one guard and apparently trying to get away when a second guard shoots the stun gun at the back of his leg, which then bursts into flames. The man falls to the ground and screams as the flames die down.
“We are currently reviewing the after-store-hours incident that occurred outside of Jim’s South St. early morning on Feb. 2, 2019,” Ken Silver, president of Jim’s, told the Philadelphia Inquirer in a statement. “We are and will continue to cooperate fully with the Philadelphia Police Department as needed. We take the safety of our customers and employees very seriously and work dutifully to safeguard their well-being. In doing so we will continue to operate with the highest standards as a local merchant, employer and neighbor.”
Silver said the incident was also caught on the restaurant’s security cameras, but he did not say whether the security guards involved were employed by Jim’s. The police department told the paper on Saturday evening that the incident had not been reported to the department.
While the purpose of a taser gun is to stun the subject, not light the person on fire, this has happened before, sometimes with fatal consequences. Scientific studies of the weapon show that it ignites when the target has been soaked in flammable liquid or is in close proximity to flammable vapor. In 2017, a suicidal man in Texas who had doused himself in gasoline died after police tased him. That same year, a man in Oklahoma City died when he was tased near his gasoline-soaked van. This can also happen when the subject has also been sprayed with an alcohol-based pepper spray.
Axon, the maker of tasers, said in 2017 that it knew of 15 people catching fire, resulting in five deaths.
“A [TASER Conducted Electrical Weapon] can ignite explosive or flammable clothing or materials, liquids, fumes, gases or vapors (e.g., gasoline, vapor or gas found in sewer lines or methamphetamine labs, butane-type lighters, flammable hair gels or some self-defense sprays). Do not knowingly use a CEW in the presence of any explosive or flammable substance unless the situation justifies the increased risk,” the device instructions read.
Knowing this, some police departments use only water-based pepper spray. Still, the use of tasers is controversial, as it can have other unintended consequences, such as causing cardiac arrest in some people. Reuters found that from 2000 to 2017, 1,005 people had died after police had tased them.
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