Questions raised about police tasing 74-year-old DWI suspect

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DEMING, N.M. (KRQE) – KRQE News 13 first reported on video of New Mexico State Police officers stopping a 74-year-old wrong way driver, and tasing him. Now, that video is raising some questions.

There’s no question the DWI suspect caused a dangerous scene on the interstate, but some people do have questions about how the officers handled the man’s arrest.

Dash cam video from New Mexico State Police shows officers chase down a wrong way driver on I-10 January 4, 2016 in Deming, New Mexico.

As the suspect’s van zooms past traffic head on, no doubt it’s a dangerous situation. Roger Charlet, 74, is behind the wheel.

After a nearly 20 minute pursuit with police, an officer finally gets the van to stop by successfully conducting a PIT maneuver.

The officers pulled Charlet out of the van. In a matter of seconds, another officer tased Charlet. He fell to the ground holding his chest.

“From all accounts, it looks like an excessive use of force to me,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

“It looks like they didn’t give him much time to comply before they fired the electronic control device,” Simonson added.

Simonson also pointed out, Charlet’s hands are visible right before he’s tased.

“The officers are so close to him, that if indeed he does have a weapon, they can immediately rationalize the use of even lethal force,” said Simonson. Simonson wonders why officers didn’t direct Charlet to the ground from a point of cover, rather than get so close to him.

A woman who knew Charlet is also concerned.

“That seemed totally unnecessary for an old man that was not going to run away,” said Linda Pafford, who knew Charlet from community organizations.

After seeing the video, she’s worried the taser to the chest may have done damage.

The 74-year-old was found dead in his home just last week, eight days after this take-down. New Mexico State Police officers said Charlet was drunk and resisting.

“At the end of the day, maybe this complies with their policy, maybe this complies with federal law around the use of lethal force, but did it have to go this way?” Simonson asked. “That’s the more important question.”

The ACLU also pointed out a report regarding the toll a taser could take on someone’s health. Charlet’s wife told KRQE News 13 over the phone she has concerns about the incident affecting her husband’s heart, but she said she’s unable to tell without an autopsy.

A spokesperson for the New Mexico State Police said officers responded according to policy in this case, and it did not warrant an internal investigation. Because the incident was not linked to Charlet’s death, State Police said they would not comment further.

Luna County Sheriff’s deputies found Charlet dead in his home alone January 12th. Detectives said he appears to have died of natural causes.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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