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San Juan Sheriff defends Taser use on 72-year-old man

A deputy who used a Taser last week to subdue a 72-year-old San Juan Island man responded appropriately given the circumstances, according to San Juan County Sheriff Bill Cumming.

Cumming said that shortly before the confrontation with the deputy, the man had allegedly assaulted a woman during an altercation at her home on Warbass Way. He was the prime suspect in that assault at the time.

Cumming said the man, who reportedly flagged the officer down, was uncooperative when questioned, appeared intoxicated and then became combative during an early-morning scuffle in the 600 block of Harrison Street. He was taken into custody at about 10 a.m. and later charged with DUI, disorderly conduct and two counts of misdemeanor assault.

No other deputies were at the scene to provide help when the confrontation erupted, Cumming said.

“Tasers are one of many tools we can employ to save people, and officers, from harm,” he said. “It was an unfortunate set of circumstances.”

Despite his age, Cumming said the man was powerful and aggressive during what proved a brief struggle with the deputy. He said officers are trained to take age and the physical condition of a person into account when determining, given the situation, whether to use a Taser.

Cumming said that a special report is required of deputies whenever a Taser is used. Those reports are reviewed by the sheriff and in this case, he said, the response was appropriate.

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