The IOPC has launched an investigation into the use of force by two Sussex Police officers after a 93-year-old man died three weeks after being taken to the hospital after he was tasered.
On Tuesday 21st June, staff at a care home in St Leonards-on-Sea called 999 for help after 93-year-old Donald Burgess – who suffered from dementia and only had one leg – armed himself with a knife and threatened staff.
When officers arrived on the scene, they were taken to a room where Mr Burgess was. When the two response team officers entered the room, they could see that Mr Burgess was still holding the blade.
When Mr Burgess refused to put the knife down, one of the officers deployed their pava spray. A baton was also used.
The second officer deployed a taser which enabled the officers to remove the knife from Mr Burgess, and he was arrested and handcuffed.
Mr Burgess was taken to hospital for medical treatment, where he remained for three weeks before passing away on 13th July.
The cause of Mr Burgess’s death is unknown, and investigators are still waiting for the results of further cardio-pathology examinations.
However, both the officers involved have been served with gross misconduct notices along with letters advising them that they are under criminal investigation for manslaughter.
Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Tanya Jones said:
“We want to express our sympathies to the family and friends of Mr Burgess. Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.
“We are providing every assistance to the IOPC to allow for a thorough investigation and for the family to receive the answers they need.”
IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley said
“I want to express my sympathies to the man’s relatives and those who knew him. We have advised his next-of-kin of our independent investigation and explained the steps we will be taking.
“This will include investigating whether the force used by the two officers against this male, was reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the circumstances and in line with local and national policies, procedures and guidance.”
The Sussex Police Federation are yet to make a statement.
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Tasering does seem a little extreme for a one legged 93 year old, but he was armed with a knife and presumably had clearly stated his intention to use it. Were the police to wait until one or both of them were stabbed before taking robust action?
93 or not he would still be able to cause some injuries. He refused to put the knife down and got tasered thats the way it works.
There is an additional factor here-of preventing him from severely injuring himself.