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Visitor dies after getting zapped by Miami-Dade police Taser

By CHARLES RABIN, crabin@MiamiHerald.com

Police_event_generic_ledeWillie Sams, studying to become a barber in a small Georgia town, was visiting his grandmother and father in Liberty City three weeks ago when he got into a confrontation with Miami-Dade police.

Just before 1 a.m. on Feb. 5, police responding to a domestic dispute call jolted Sams, 21, with an electronic control device, more commonly known as a Taser.

An hour later, doctors at Northshore Medical Center pronounced Sams dead.

“An encounter occurred between the officers and Mr. Sams. The officers deployed an electronic control device, striking Mr. Sams. MDFR [Miami-Dade Fire Rescue] was called to the scene and Mr. Sams was transported to North Shore Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.” That is the police statement on the death — and all authorities will say.

Cause of death has yet to be determined by the county’s medical examiner. That office continues to wait on findings from blood work and a toxicology report. The investigation remains open.

Sams’ mother, 40-year-old Lagayla Bennett, said she spent more than a week in Miami retrieving her son’s body, and buried him last Saturday in Georgia. She said she repeatedly called detectives to try and learn what happened.

“To this day no one has called me to say my son passed,” Bennett said. “Now I’m trying to track down his driver’s license.”

Bennett said her son was 200 hours short of receiving a technical degree to cut and style hair, and had done music production work. She also said Sams had no medical issues. He lived in Palmetto, Ga., a tiny town in the state’s northwest corner with a population of less than 5,000.

The Miami-Dade medical examiner has never determined that a Taser, an electronic device that hits the subject with barbs that can release up to 50,000 volts of electricity, has been responsible for a death. The device has been used by South Florida police agencies for about a decade.

Often, death is blamed on a state of “excited delirium,” and agitated condition that medical experts say causes a persons heart to race.

Family members Sams had been staying with in Miami did not respond to requests for interviews. No one responded to a note left on the front door of the Liberty City townhome in the 1600 block of Northwest 75th Street, where the Feb. 5 incident took place.

Neighbors there said they weren’t even aware of Sams’ death.

Latawya Willingham, 37, lives next door to the townhome. She said she doesn’t know her neighbors, and that people in the neighborhood mostly keep to themselves.

She said a commotion on the morning of Sams’ death startled her, and she took a look out her upstairs window.

“I saw they Tasered him, it was late,” Willingham said. “He fell, so I knew they didn’t shoot him. He’s dead? I didn’t know that.”

Bennett, Sams’ mother, remains miffed at Miami-Dade police.

“No one, as of today, has called me to say my son passed.” she said.

Comments

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GoodDaySir

Don't do the crime if can't do the time...

MARVA LIGHTBOURNE

..I know one of the relative of this young man & a lot of " unanswered questions" remains.. very sad.. chairwomen concerned citizens committee,mismi,fla

Terence Clarke

Once again, too many people continue to die from taser jolts. There obviously has to be some sort of moratorium on using this weapon: either modify tasers by reducing the voltage from 50,000 or rescind the use of tasers all together.

It makes no sense if deaths start to move from the dozens into the hundreds, eventually.

edgar alfonso

it is sad this happened. I feel for his family and I think the police should pick up the costs associated with his death. I dont know who was at fault. I am assuming it was just an incident and it ended badly.

Howard Taylor

Tasers have killed thousands of people. They are deadly weapons yet their use is not regulated under police department policy like guns are. The police refuse to admit these are deadly weapons. They are used as a sanitary way to dispose of problems. It is a tool that allows cops to NOT get their hands dirty. It is the lazy cowards way out of doing a job.

Kenneth Newman

Charge the cop with manslaughter.

Art Vasquez

A taser by itself does not cause death but exacerbates other conditions which cause death. I wondered why there have not been any new studies on tasers. There needs to be an investigation on this young man's death.
But why confront the police on a domestic dispute, civilians are unarmed (mostly) and police are always armed, sometimes including tasers.

Sixto Soto

Mr. Taylor says tasers "allow cops to not get their hands dirty, a cowards way out of doing a job." Maybe you prefer the traditional way, a good ass beating. Tasers are the new politically correct way to subdue someone without really causing permanent injury. No police department wants a photo of person who was arrested on TV with a swollen face etc. It is sad what happened to Mr. Sams but I am sure there are other factors that will come out that will explain why he truly died, medical issues, etc.

marilyn booker

Tasers represent a method that is considered by the authorities to be beneficial in ending situations without deadly force. The only problem with this is who knows the physical condition of the person being jolted. it's criminal but until it has negative outcomes in communities other than minorities they will remain. I concur, the voltage should be decreased and ultimately this method of police control should end.

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