Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Public safety

Pinellas Park man describes being blasted with Taser as he fought house fire

PINELLAS PARK — The fire was all around Dan Jensen.

He could see it. He could smell it. He could hear it.

It was close enough to touch. It was burning down his neighbor's house. It was creeping toward Jensen's own fence 10 feet away, and he started spraying the fire with his hose.

Police ordered Jensen to get back, and he complied.

But after a few minutes passed without firefighters arriving, a frustrated Jensen stepped forward and leaned down to grab the skinny gray garden hose once again.

That's when he heard the order.

"Hit 'em! Take him down! Tase him!"

Within moments, Jensen was on the ground. He felt electric.

"It was all over me," Jensen said. "Crawling all over me."

The 42-year-old commercial fisherman is still struggling to comprehend exactly how things deteriorated so quickly Thursday. He said he doesn't understand why police shot him with a Taser that night as he tried to battle a house fire at 3420 Beechwood Ter. N.

Jensen's family, friends and neighbors have been quick to defend him and accuse police of crossing a line.

"It was wrong," he said. "There's no way around it. … I was fighting a fire. I wasn't fighting police. I thought they were here to help me. Instead, they hurt me."

Police said they can sympathize with the stress Jensen was under. But they said he put himself and officers in danger when he refused to back down from fighting the fire.

Pinellas Park Capt. Sanfield Forseth told the Tampa Bay Times authorities could have even charged Jensen with obstruction, but decided against it.

• • •

Jensen's attorney, Heidi Imhof, said she believes authorities are trying to deflect attention from their actions that night. She called the Taser use "excessive force."

"They can't just Taser anyone," she said. "He's an unarmed person on his private property trying to fight a fire."

Imhof said the officers had other options. They could have yanked Jensen away, she said, or just turned off the water.

The agency's policy says officers must issue a warning before using a Taser, "except when such warning could provide a tactical advantage to the subject."

Imhof said her client was never warned.

Jensen said he's "disappointed" in police.

He said that when they arrived on the scene, they told him to back off and let insurance take care of it. He did for a few minutes but grew impatient and irate. He picked up the hose again because he thought firefighters weren't getting there soon enough.

Officials told the Times it took six minutes for fire fighters to respond.

"That's my home," Jensen said Monday, his voice breaking. "That's my family."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

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