TAMPA — The family of a man who died after being shocked with a Taser is suing Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee and three deputies involved in the incident.
Angela Wilson, the widow of Roney Wilson, filed the suit in Hillsborough Circuit Court in August. It was moved to U.S. district court in Tampa this week at the request of the Sheriff's Office.
Wilson, 46, died Sept. 11, 2008. His family called 911 after he became upset, climbed into his mother's Nissan Frontier, punched out the windshield and would not come out.
Wilson had a history of mental illness, and the family had previously committed him for psychiatric evaluation under Florida's Baker Act.
The suit contends that deputies Mary Angelo, Jessica Guthrie and Dustin Hartline acted "beyond their discretionary departmental authority" by first shocking Wilson, then shackling him and ultimately hog-tying him.
Angelo, who is married to St. Petersburg Times news researcher John Martin, used the Taser. The Sheriff's Office has said she administered three shocks. The suit contends there were at least twice that many.
The shocks did not incapacitate Wilson, who struggled with deputies, according to the lawsuit. Rather, it says they only caused him pain, increasing his agitation.
The suit, which seeks more than $15,000 in damages, alleges that the Sheriff's Office was negligent and the deputies used excessive force.
In court pleadings, the Sheriff's Office denies the allegations and says the deputies acted in good faith and used lawful, reasonable and necessary force.
Moreover, the agency contends Wilson's own conduct led to any damages, and he was impaired by alcohol and drugs.
The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office concluded last year that Wilson died from "agitated delirium," a controversial condition often associated with Taser-related deaths.
Dr. Leszek Chrostowski said Wilson's cause of death was "delirium with agitation due to schizoaffective disorder."
Wilson had a small amount of alcohol in his blood, plus the prescription antidepressants cyclobenzaprine, doxapine and mirtazapine, all of which can cause agitation, according to Chrostowski. Added stress can lead to physiological collapse and death, he said.
Chrostowski said he couldn't say if the Taser shock itself contributed to the death.
He cited Taser International-sponsored studies that indicate a shock by a Taser does not cause cardiac arrhythmia. But Amnesty International said Wilson's case was similar to 98 other Taser-related deaths studied by researchers.