Fight stopped by Taser sparks Big Isle inquiry


POSTED: Sunday, April 19, 2009

HILO » Authorities are investigating an incident at Keaau High School that led to the arrest of six students and one 17-year-old student being subdued with a Taser.

Police say the use of the stun gun on the Big Island student was appropriate. But some parents and at least one Board of Education member are questioning the use of force.

; The incident occurred at 9:25 a.m. Tuesday.

“;From my understanding, this was one officer trying to break up a fight that involved multiple participants. It reached a level where the school had to lock down,”; Police Chief Harry Kubojiri told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald on Thursday. “;All indications are the officer followed our protocol in use of the device.”;

Saying that he had not read the officer's report, Kubojiri said it appeared that verbal commands had not worked and that the Tasered student had continued to be aggressive.

Board of Education member Mary Cochran said she is looking into the case.

“;I'm having one of my staff analysts investigate how often this (stun gun) is being done. We want to get to the bottom of this,”; Cochran said.

“;If this kid engaged in activity violent enough to warrant the use of a Taser, I don't know. That's what we're trying to find out,”; Cochran said.

The electroshock weapon shoots two tiny barbs at the end of wires that deliver 50,000 volts of electricity, freezing a person's neuromuscular system.

“;We do have a procedure in place as far as the use of Tasers,”; said Capt. Steven Guillermo. “;The officer felt that in this situation it was appropriate to use the Taser.”;

Guillermo says privacy laws surrounding juveniles limit how much police can discuss the case.

He said Puna police were investigating the fight and have arrested an 18-year-old subject for terroristic threatening in a related incident.

Keaau High School Vice Principal Barbara Riley said the officer who responded to the fray happened to be on a random patrol of campus.

“;It all happened so fast,”; said Keaau High School Vice Principal Barbara Riley. “;We're still trying to figure out how it got to this point. It wasn't planned, and we don't expect it to happen again.”;

She said there will be more police on campus as officers watch for truancy and fights. The school has drafted a letter to parents notifying them of the increased police presence.

“;We're investigating the incident and trying to assure the safety of our students and staff,”; she added.

Andrea Shaw, the grandparent guardian of a Keaau High student, learned of the incident as it happened. Shaw was headed to Oahu for a doctor's appointment and had borrowed her granddaughter's cell phone for the day when the device started vibrating.

“;It was a text message from one of her friends; it said, 'OMG, I just saw someone get Tased,'”; Shaw said. “;I wouldn't want my child witnessing that kind of thing,”; Shaw said. “;It's traumatizing.”;