Guy Guthrie, suicidal man with BB gun, dies after being Tased
Update: This weekend, members of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office deployed a Taser against a suicidal man now identified as Guy Guthrie, 55. He was armed, but only with a BB gun -- and died about an hour later. A JCSO spokesman defends the safety of Tasers even as he acknowledges that the outcome was tragic. But while there's no evidence yet that the device contributed to the Guthrie's death, the incident is still likely to fuel criticism from those who believe Tasers are a lot more dangerous than advertised.
The best-known recent incident in which a man died after being Tased involved Alonzo Ashley -- and the accounts of the July 2011 incident at the Denver Zoo from his girlfriend and the Denver Police Department could hardly be more different.
As we've reported, the girlfriend said Ashley (nicknamed Tiger) got so overheated while visiting the zoo that he vomited. She added that he was trying to cool down by splashing water on his head from a fountain near the elephant enclosure when a zoo staffer asked if he needed help. He allegedly responded by saying he wanted to be left alone, prompting calls to zoo security and Denver Police. She insisted that no "domestic disturbance" of the sort cited by the DPD took place, and maintained that he didn't fight back against officers.
In contrast, police said Ashley attacked a zoo employee alerted by an argument with his girlfriend, and subsequently bit two people trying to subdue him, in addition to inflicting a head injury. Moreover, they described him as so wild that contact-Tasing -- pressing the device directly against him, as opposed to shooting him with Taser barbs, which would have immobilized him entirely -- did nothing to slow him down. Only after he was belatedly brought under control did he begin convulsing, then stopped breathing. He died at a nearby hospital.
Ashley's death was controversial, but in January 2012, the Manager of Safety's Office determined that no charges should be filed against the eight officers involved in the matter. This determination didn't satisfy Ashley's friends, family and loved ones: Last July, they sued the zoo and the police department. The lawsuit has not been resolved at this writing.
This weekend's situation happened at a far less public place -- a home at 30438 Sunset Trail in Conifer so far off the radar that Google Maps has yet to capture its image. At 6:49 a.m., according to a JCSO press release, deputies and medical personnel arrived at the address after receiving a report about a 55-year-old man -- Guthrie, a resident of the Pine area -- who'd been making suicidal statements.
JCSO public-information officer Mark Techmeyer adds that the man's brother, who phoned authorities, believed he was under the influence of drugs at the time. Techmeyer says he didn't specify which drugs, though, and a coroner's report has yet to be finalized.
Guthrie was carrying a BB gun, and when he refused to drop it, deputies deployed a Taser, after which he's said to have been placed into custody without further incident.
That's not the end of the story, however.
Continue for more about Tasers and the weekend death of a Conifer man.