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Husband of jail Taser victim thinking lawsuit (with video)

The husband of a woman who was Tasered for not picking up her shoes while she was being processed at the jail said she should file a lawsuit against Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Mia Barnes, 32, was Tasered by Sgt. Donald McGowan when she was told several times to pick up her shoes after being arrested in November.

Barnes, who was allegedly belligerent and drunk at the time when she was arrested for trespassing, made no physical threat toward the deputies before she was stunned, according to an internal affairs report.

“She hasn’t pursued (a lawsuit), but she probably should,” said Michael Dickenson, Barnes’ husband. “Their job is tough, but they didn’t need to use excessive force.”

Barnes could not be reached for comment.

Sheriff’s office policy dictates deputies are not supposed to use Tasers unless someone physically resists. In this case, Barnes’ actions did not rise to that level, according to the report.

McGowan was suspended 43 hours without pay, had 43 hours of vacation time deducted and must be retrained on the use of Tasers.

However, had the same incident taken place a couple of years ago, McGowan would not have faced disciplinary action.

“If this would have happened prior to that, he would have been OK,” said Public Information Officer Dave Bristow.

The sheriff’s office use-of-force policy was changed after a Florida law went into effect stating law enforcement can Taser people when the person is under arrest or in custody and shows active physical resistance by threatening the officer or trying to escape.

When the law was passed in 2006, the sheriff’s office sent out a training bulletin to all sworn personnel carrying the dart gun, Bristow said.

Each time a deputy uses a Taser, the sheriff’s office conducts a report on each use, including accidental discharges.

“Every time a Taser is used, it’s no different than somebody firing a weapon,” Bristow said.

In security film footage from the lobby, McGowan is shown standing in front of Barnes before going over and applying the stun gun directly to her left shoulder for five seconds.

In response, Barnes is seen flailing and falls to the floor, where she manages to kick McGowan in the groin.

Barnes was Tasered three times and it took several deputies to get her under control.

McGowan said it was not just the shoes, but it was her verbal abuse. He stated he thought Barnes was poised to strike, according to the report, when he explained why he decided to stun her.

“This is one of our better sergeants who made a mistake. ... She’s not being aggressive toward anyone,” said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube.

Barnes was charged with trespassing, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting. The battery charge has since been dropped, according to court records.

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