Police use of a Taser 'contributing factor' in Ontario man's death, jury finds

MIDHURST, Ont. – A coroner’s jury found Tuesday that the use of a Taser was a contributing factor in the accidental death of a 27-year-old Ontario man at the hands of police.

Aron Firman’s death in June 2010 has been called an “index case” by Ontario’s top pathologist, who has testified that the stun gun was a key factor in the fatality.

The jury found the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to a state of excited delirium and schizophrenia.

Firman’s father, Marcus Firman, said he was “disappointed” with the finding, saying he believes the Taser triggered the heart condition that proved fatal for his son.

But he welcomed the clear link between the stun gun and his son’s death in light of what he called weeks of contradictory evidence on the matter.

“Obviously the science is unclear,” he said after the inquest concluded.

The panel also made a number of recommendations aimed at preventing such deaths in the future, including that police officers should call paramedics and begin CPR immediately when someone becomes unresponsive after being struck with a Taser.

Current procedures require that officers first check for a pulse.

A lawyer representing Taser International has suggested Firman could have died from cardiac arrhythmia brought on by “excited delirium” — a condition sometimes cited as a cause of death in people using cocaine or those with severe mental illness.

Presiding coroner William Lucas warned the five-member jury panel on Friday not to resort to an “undetermined” cause of death as a matter of convenience.

Firman, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after an encounter with Ontario Provincial Police in Collingwood, Ont.

The inquest has heard vastly different testimony from experts. Some have suggested the use of a Taser on Firman was a key factor in his death, while others argued the stun gun had little to do with the fatality.

Ontario’s police watchdog cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, but also said the Taser’s deployment caused Firman’s death.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version erroneously said the jury found the use of the Taser was an ‘aggravating factor’ in Firman’s death.

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