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Judge dismisses Taser wrongful death lawsuit

HIGHLANDS — A lawsuit filed by Howard and Carolyn Eagleton, siblings of Kenneth Ray Eagleton, who died June 21, 2006 after Harris County Sheriff deputies used a Taser device to subdue him so he could be put in an ambulance, was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner on Friday, March 5.

According to Harris County Sheriff’s Lt. John Martin, who was a spokesman for the sheriff’s office at the time of the incident, paramedics had called the Sheriff’s Office for help because Eagleton was lying in his car at the side of the road, screaming incoherently, and holding a knife.

Paramedics told deputies they feared Eagleton had overdosed on drugs and needed to be taken to a hospital.

After two attempts to handcuff Eagleton, who was 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighed nearly 300 pounds, a deputy twice used a Taser to control Eagleton long enough for other deputies to secure the handcuffs.

Eagleton was then put in the ambulance and rushed to San Jacinto Methodist Hospital in Baytown. He died there two and a half days later. The hospital said that when Eagleton arrived in the emergency room he had a 108-degree temperature, had a heart rate in excess of 100 beats per minute and was having seizures.

According to an autopsy report written Harris County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Marissa Feeney, obtained by the “Star-Courier”, Eagleton died of “complications of rhabdomylosis with acute renal (kidney) failure due to acute cocaine intoxication.

A toxicology report indicated a positive result for cocaine in the urine and the chemical benzoylecgonine in the urine and the blood. Benzoylecgonine is a metabolite that is formed when cocaine reacts with water in the liver.

Howard Eagleton and Carolyn Eagleton, sued Harris County, then-Sheriff Tommy Thomas, and nine deputies at the scene, alleging that the deputy’s use of a Taser was excessive.

The Harris County Attorney’s office made a motion for summary judgment believing that under the circumstances, the deputy’s use of the Taser was reasonable and there was no evidence that the Taser caused Eagleton’s death.

According to court documents obtained by the “Star-Courier” Hittner ruled that “the Plaintiffs recover nothing, that action is dismissed on the merits, and that the Defendants recover costs from the Plaintiffs.”

In the ruling, Hittner granted Harris County’s motion for a summery judgement and denied the Eagleton’s motion for a summery judgement.