Sheriff's Department Sued Over Stun Gun Incident - Tucson News Now

Sheriff's Department Sued Over Stun Gun Incident

A local man is demanding all charges against him be dropped after he was arrested for drunk driving last May. Brian Sewell is also suing the Pima County Sheriff's Department for $500,000.

His attorney says authorities went too far when they zapped Sewell repeatedly with a 50,000-volt stun gun.

The Sheriff's Department says the charges are unfounded and without merit.

Brian Sewell told authorities he was deathly afraid of needles and that he wouldn't submit to a blood test under any circumstances.  But when authorities obtained a court-ordered warrant to draw blood, what he said--apparently didn't matter.  And what happened next, his attorney says, can only be described as torture.

"When I questioned the deputy and sergeant they said we don't see any marks," says  Sewell's attorney, Michael Bloom, holding up some pictures.  "These are the scars on his neck six weeks later."

Bloom says Sewell was extremely cooperative with deputies at first and even volunteered to take a field sobriety test. But after failing that test miserably, deputies informed Sewell they needed to take blood.

Only problem is, the visibly intoxicated Sewell -- who was later charged with extreme DUI -- was deathly afraid of needles.

Bloom says, "They can use his refusal as very compelling evidence against him anyway. There is virtually no need to get blood in this case."

"In some eyes, it's seen as more accurate and will help prove beyond a reasonable doubt the person was intoxicated at the time they were arrested," says Dep. Steve Easton, spokesman for the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

Which is why authorities obtained a warrant to get the blood they needed.  At no point was a breathalyzer or urine test even offered.

Bloom says, "Despite that fact, the Sgt. takes a taser and proceeds in a contact way, holding on his neck for five seconds inflicting 50,000 volts of current on three different occasions until finally Mr. Sewell can't take it anymore and goes limp. And they take blood from him."

The Sheriff's Department says they did nothing wrong, and they stand behind the actions of the sergeant.

When asked what could've been done differently, they say Sewell could have complied.  Or--had he not been driving drunk...he'd have never been in this situation in the first place.

"Mr. Sewell made a comment to the effect you better use that taser because I'm gonna fight you. You're not gonna stick that needle in me," Easton says. "He didn't have a choice. There was a warrant issued for this blood sample."

The Sheriff's Department is reviewing its policy for the use of tasers, but that's not just because of this case, but becuase the department has purchased more than 300 additional tasers so that every deputy on the street will soon have one.

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