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Mother sues after police use stun gun on 8-year-old

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Taser stock image

PIERRE, South Dakota — Police warned the 8-year-old they were going to use a stun gun on her.

“Within seconds,” an officer fired darts from the electroshock weapon into the chest of the 70-pound girl, according to a lawsuit filed by the girl’s mother. “The force of the electricity shot through her body, lifted her, and threw her against a wall. After the officers had stunned (the girl) into high voltage submission, they pulled the fish-hook like Taser darts from her chest, gave her emergency medical attention, bandaged the holes left by the razor-sharp hooks, and called the ambulance.”

The reason the police were at the home was to keep the girl from hurting herself; the babysitter had called them because the child had a knife in her hand. All parties agree on this point — the girl’s mother, Dawn Stenstrom, as well as the defendants: the city of Pierre, South Dakota, its former police chief, Robert Grandpre, and the four officers at the scene on October 4, 2013.

But their opinions about the responding officers’ actions diverge from there.

The girl’s mother says the police used “excessive force” when they used a Taser on her girl. But Grandpre disagreed, telling CNN affiliate KSFY after the incident that the police “might possibly have saved this girl’s life.”

Because of the pending litigation, Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill refused comment on Saturday. And attorney Robert Anderson, who is representing the defendants, said he was “not going to comment on the merits of pending litigation.”

After an independent two-month investigation, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation ruled in December that the officer had acted appropriately.

“Given the circumstances facing the officer at the time, it appears from the report that deploying a Taser was the best viable way to defuse the situation,” Wendy Kloeppner, the Hughes County state’s attorney, said in a statement.

“That’s bull****,” Stenstrom’s attorney Dana Hanna told CNN on Saturday.

“Four trained police officers surrounding a 70-pound, 8-year-old Indian girl,” should have used less risky tactics, Hanna said.

“One distracts her, another grabs the girl’s arm. That’s what they should have done,” Hanna said. “She had a kitchen paring knife, but hadn’t cut. She was a kid throwing a tantrum. They should have made an attempt to grab the kid, not use a weapon to throw her into a wall. A Taser’s not meant to kill, but it does kill. Many people have died after being hit by a Taser by cops. It never should be used on a little child. She certainly wasn’t presenting a danger to officers.”

“I don’t fault for the police being there because they were called. They were there. But what happened while they were there is why I’m upset,” the girl’s father, Bobby Jones, told KSFY soon after the incident.

One of the officers was a Taser instructor, while another was a hostage negotiator, KSFY reported.

Grandpre told KSFY last October that Pierre police had used Tasers nine times in the past two years, with the girl, who is identified in the lawsuit only as “L.M.J.,” the youngest recipient of the electric shock.

“I don’t think 8-year-olds should be Tased anywhere in the world,” Jones said.

Jones and Stenstrom are not married, and the father is not a party to the lawsuit, Hanna said.

The plaintiffs are seeking at least $100,000 in damages, plus punitive damages and “other relief as the court shall consider to be fair and equitable.”

“Her pain and suffering is going to be of that type that a jury will have to tell us what it’s worth,” said Hanna’s co-counsel Patrick Duffy. “Part of that is going to be a reflection of the fact that you’re not supposed to use a Taser on a kid. I don’t know of too many cops that don’t know that.”

Anderson, the defendants’ attorney, said he didn’t know if the case would go to trial, but Duffy said he hopes it does.

“L.M.J.” is getting mental and emotional counseling from a child counselor, Hanna said.

“What is it really going to honestly do for the rest of her life as she has to interact with authority figures and law enforcement?” Duffy said. “What’s it going to be like first time she looks in the rear view mirror and law enforcement gives her a speeding ticket? She won’t shake that.”

Since the incident, Stenstrom and her daughter, who are members of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, have moved from Pierre back to the tribal reservation, Hanna said.


  • NobodyAtAll

    And when I grow up and after lots of extensive training, me and my cohorts are going to try to beat up a little girl..Wish me luck!

  • No Hope For Change

    Ha, ha the current state of society sheeple. An adult (presumably an adult being the babysitter) can’t control a child and calls for the police to do their job. The police show up and take action and they are blamed for it wow just wow. Its apparent that the public would prefer an adult police officer be stabbed over a whiny brat “throwing a temper tantrum” WITH A KNIFE get tased because she’s a wee tot. Its only an eight year old they can stab very hard, right? Google search how many times children in the single digit ages have killed people you might get educated possibly “shocked” ha, ha. There was a 12 year old that stabbed a 9 year old on the playground very recently. Would the public prefer the child be sprayed with pepper sprayed or beaten with a baton? If you think four officers should somehow wrestle away a knife like in the movies from a person they admit was “throwing a tantrum” and not expect the officers to be injured by the knife you have mental problems as well. Either route you go the child gets injured. Nowadays the police lay a hand on you the person gets “injured” $$$$$ wink wink hint hint so they can’t win either way. My opinion: its the public’s fault, bad parenting, the way society is not the police.

    The dopie attorney is a joke, distract the child? Yeah, use your police issued powers of hypnosis, voodoo and jedi mind tricks. Reality, much? This child clearly needs “mental and emotional counseling” but its not from the interaction of the police officers. Police officers are expected to be miracle workers and fix any situation that took a lifetime of dysfunction to create. $100,000 is going to change the fact that the child is disturbed.

    • Doh.

      Google search how many times law enforcement officers have used excessive force and/or killed people unnecessarily. Also, 12 years old is not a single digit age.

  • Fredrick

    Next time you need Police assistance call a Crack head, or wait better yet be a parent and handle your own children and there problems. I am sure your child was showing signs of being crazy before this incident. It is obvious they are looking for a quick payout here! What is America coming to or should I say what has happened to America!

  • Mark Stabler

    An absolute no win situation. If the officers had attempted to tackle her and in the ensuing action she had fallen on the knife and severely injured herself or if they delayed action and she stabbed herself the Mother would be suing because the police did not act quickly enough. Next time she throws a fit call that wonderful attorney and let him/her handle the situation.

  • goldenknight_94

    it sounds like a parenting issue, not a police problem. true she is a child, but children at her age can kill, or severely injure someone very easily. She should have known better anyway. Yes, she needs counseling or better yet a good spanking. i hope they dont get a dime from this lawsuit. Also the child is eight, and probally for the rest of her life if she gets in trouble, they will blame this incident and play the system.

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