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Martinsburg City Council puts tasers on stun

February 08, 2001|By BOB PARTLOW

Martinsburg City Council puts tasers on stun



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - City Council members received a shocking demonstration at their monthly meeting Thursday night, after which they voted to add a new weapon to the city police arsenal.

Two members of the police department demonstrated the use of the "taser" gun, which throws two electronic wires 21 feet, temporarily shocking into submission any person at whom they are aimed.

Police Chief Ted Anderson described the device as a "less than lethal weapon" that would help in potential suicides or in situations in which officers might confront someone with a weapon like a knife and refuse to put it down.

"It would give us the ability to take a weapon away without having to use a lethal weapon," he said.

He described its potency as being between pepper spray and a gun. Unlike pepper spray, however, no one has to be decontaminated after it is used.

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Patrolman Scott Sheets told council members the device is powered by eight AA batteries. It uses 26 watts to discharge 50,000 volts. The hooks at the end of the taser must get within three inches of a person's skin, meaning it could hit someone in a heavy coat and still be effective, he said.

"It's like getting a really bad charley horse," he said of the effect.

His brother. Lt. Sam Sheets, agreed to be a guinea pig to demonstrate the weapon. He got a shot of a little more than a second, although each blast can last up to five seconds.

"It feels like you stuck your finger in a light socket," he said after the voltage hit him.

The guns have the same effect if the wires are removed and an officer places it directly on a person.

The guns cost $400 each, plus $100 for a holster and $17 for cartridge, which is used once.

The council unanimously approved the request to purchase four tasers, one for each work shift and one for a special unit of the department.

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