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When Tasering goes wrong: UK cops use stun gun on blind man, mistook his white cane for samurai sword

In the UK, the vast majority of cops don’t carry guns. When trouble occurs, they have only their baton and powers of persuasion to deal with the situation. In recent years, however, more and more cops have been issued with Tasers.

As you probably know, a Taser is a kind of stun gun that allows a cop to administer an electric shock to a person who is out of control or refusing to co-operate. While it can be an effective tool for law enforcement agencies, use of the device can sometimes go horribly wrong – like it did last Friday in Lancashire, north-west England.

In an incident that would be amusing if it wasn’t so shocking (no pun intended), a cop messed up big-time with Colin Farmer, a 61-year-old blind man who walks with the aid of a white cane.

Somehow the cop, who apparently isn’t blind, mistook Farmer’s white cane for a samurai sword (yes, a samurai sword) and fired the Taser at his back, administering a massive electric shock in the process.

Farmer, who was taken to hospital following the incident, has – not surprisingly – made an official complaint which is now being investigated by the UK’s Police Complaints Commission.

Speaking to the Guardian about what must have been an utterly terrifying ordeal, Farmer said he’d been walking down the street Friday evening when he suddenly heard lots of shouting. He had know idea it was the police. The next moment he felt something hit his back.

“The Taser hit me in the back and it started sending all these thousands of volts through me and I was terrified,” Farmer said. “I mean I had two strokes already caused by stress. I dropped the cane involuntarily and I collapsed on the floor face down.”

He continued, “I was shaking and I thought ‘I’m going to have another stroke any second and this one is going to kill me. I’m being killed.’”

Farmer said he walks so slowly that the cops could easily have walked past him first, or driven past, to confirm that it was a white cane he was carrying and not a samurai sword.

Chief superintendent Stuart Williams of Lancashire Police managed to throw at least a little light onto what had happened, saying that prior to the incident a number of sightings of a man wandering around with a samurai sword had been reported to police.

“One of the officers believed he had located the offender,” Williams told the Guardian. “Despite asking the man to stop, he failed to do so and the officer discharged his Taser. It then became apparent this man was not the person we were looking for and officers attended to him straight away.”

He added, “Lancashire Constabulary deeply regrets what has happened. We have clearly put this man through a traumatic experience and we are extremely sorry.”

A man with a samurai sword was later arrested by police – and no, he wasn’t Tasered.

While Tasers may be a useful tool for police, it seems that some cops in the UK need better training on when to use them. Lessons on how to tell the difference between equipment that helps guide the blind and lethal weapons that can cause horrible injuries are evidently also required.

[Images: Stephen CoburnAnneka / Karin Hildebrand Lau - Shutterstock]