Activist Demands Autopsy Report For Man Who Was Stun Gunned

08/31/12 5:50PM By John Dillon
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A mental health activist is calling on officials to release an autopsy report on a man who died after being shot with a stun gun by state police.

State police say the report is not complete and they are not sure if the report would be considered a public record.

Thirty-nine year old Macadam Mason suffered from epilepsy and his friends say he was often distraught and disoriented following these episodes.

That was his condition, they say, on June 20 when he called a New Hampshire hospital and, according to police, threatened to harm himself and others.

Law enforcement authorities and Mason's friends disagree about exactly what happened next. But state police went to Mason's house in Thetford and one officer fired his Taser stun gun at Mason when he refused orders to remain on the ground. He collapsed and died a short while later.

Ten weeks later, the autopsy report has not been released. Mental health activist Morgan Brown has launched a petition drive calling for a moratorium on stun gun use. Now he's calling on the state to release the autopsy report.

"There's a possibility, I don't know, but there's a possibility that the public will never see those things," Brown says.

"A lot of the questions about this whole thing come down to in part the results of the autopsy, and the medical examiner's report: what was the cause of death," he says. "Then, we have more information to ask more questions, and also find out if maybe the state police need to consider doing more about their policy."

State police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro says the report can't be released because it isn't finished. She says the New Hampshire Medical Examiner controls the timing, because that office is doing the death investigation.

"It is my understanding that we are waiting, or they are waiting, for the results for some additional testing in toxicology," she says. "And once that's complete we are hopeful we will see a final report from that agency."

A spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Medical Examiner says tests sometimes take 10 weeks or more to complete. Dasaro says she doesn't know if the autopsy report will eventually be considered a public record.

"That would be a conversation among our command staff to make that decision," she says.

Mason's death has lead to a statewide discussion about police and their use of stun guns. Robert Appel, the executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, says the debate will be more informed if the public know what happened that June day in Thetford.

"This is a tool that has been given to certain law enforcement agencies but such agencies are accountable to the people and I think the people have a right to understand and weigh the evidence in terms of whether arming police with these stun guns is good policy," he says.

The state police say stun guns often allow officers to defuse a potentially violent situation with less than lethal force.

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