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Federal Jury Rules CMPD Officer Used Excessive Force In Taser Death

Davie Hinshaw
Charlotte Observer

A federal jury ruled today that a CMPD Officer used excessive force when he fired a taser on a man a second time, causing his death in 2011.

The jury also awarded the victim's family $500,000.

On July 20, 2011, CMPD officer Michael Forbes was responding to a domestic violence call at the Lynx Woodlawn light rail station. When he arrived, 21-year-old La-Reko Williams was walking away from a fight with his girlfriend. 

Officer Michael Forbes ordered Williams to stop, but he didn't obey. So Officer Forbes ended up tasing Williams in the chest. Williams fell to the ground, but Forbes then tased him a second time because he didn't listen when he asked him to roll over on his stomach. Williams then died from a heart attack.

The big question in this case was whether the second time Officer Forbes used his taser on Williams was excessive force.

David Ventura, one of the lawyers representing the family, says the jury's decision sends a strong message.

"Tasers have to be used reasonably like any other use of force," Ventura says. "Reasonably meaning based on the circumstances of what is happening at the time, whether it's a taser or any other type of weapon that they have available to them."

The jury awarded the family $500,000 for compensatory damages, but no award for punitive damages.

In a statement, city attorney Bob Hagemann says the city believes Officer Forbes acted reasonably in a very difficult situation, but respects the jury's decision.