Number of hits DA's focus in Millvale Taser case

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Allegheny County prosecutors said they are sorting through physical evidence to try to determine how many times a Millvale police officer stunned a handcuffed man last fall in an incident that was captured on video.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Friday that the Taser the officer used was discharged 20 times, but investigators do not yet know whether all of those charges struck the shirtless man.

The officer was identified in a criminal complaint as Nicole Murphy.

"Tasers are weapons. They're not toys," Mr. Zappala said. "If he was stunned 20 times in a short period of time, then we've got a crime."

He said the Millvale police chief, who could not be reached for comment Friday evening, began a disciplinary process when he found out about the incident.

A video -- possibly taken by a fellow officer -- surfaced earlier this month. It shows a man sitting handcuffed on the floor of a reception area and banging his head on a desk partition while people in the background laugh. It also shows an officer dragging him away before the stunning.

Millvale police arrested the man -- Thomas J. Smith, 27, of Millvale -- and charged him with aggravated harassment by a prisoner, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.

Attorney David Shrager said his client is "a young man who has a host of mental health issues as his family has indicated. He is a nice, affable young man, and simply needs to be treated with dignity and respect."

He said he was not sure how many times his client was struck, but that he thought Mr. Smith was dry stunned once and hit with barbs a second time. When barbs connect with a person, currents are released each time the user pushes a button, Mr. Shrager said.

The FBI is also investigating.

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Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1438. Twitter: @LizNavratil. Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc.


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