Oak Creek Police Chief Russ Caterinicchio defended Sgt. Erik Foster's use of a Taser while attempting to detain former Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman early Saturday morning, in what Caterinicchio described as a "routine arrest."
Rodeman, 54, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor charges including driving under the influence of alcohol, resisting arrest and eluding police.
Tasers, which are part of the arsenal of all law enforcement agencies in Routt County, deliver an electrical impulse from a pair of prongs fired from the device or work as a stun gun in the less-effective drive stun mode. Taser International's X26 - the device used Saturday and also carried by Steamboat Springs police and Routt County Sheriff's Office deputies - is capable of delivering a 50,000-volt pulse.
Law enforcement policies allow Tasers to be used in controlling combative or uncooperative suspects to minimize the risk of injury to officers, the suspect and others. All departments require that subjects who have been tased undergo a medical evaluation, and that the relevant supervisors be notified as soon as possible to facilitate internal investigation into that use of force.
Foster attempted to pull Rodeman over about 1 a.m. Saturday after she failed to signal a turn. When he turned on his flashing lights, Rodeman sped up and drove several blocks to her residence along with passengers Tashera and Shoshanna Montoya, in an apparent attempt to elude Foster, according to police.
Foster attempted to follow the women into the house, but Shoshanna Montoya pushed the door against him as he entered, pinning Foster between the door and its frame. After entering, Foster deployed his Taser twice while attempting to arrest Rodeman.
Use of Tasers is up to the individual officer's discretion, though officers are taught in all situations to use the least force necessary, Caterinicchio said.
According to the Oak Creek Police Department's Taser policy, officers "may deploy the device on verbally non-compliant subjects : if that use of force is reasonable and necessary under the totality of the circumstances."
In Saturday's incident, Foster was the sole officer on scene, had two other suspects present and was faced with a subject who refused to comply with verbal commands and was physically resisting arrest, Caterinicchio said. Rodeman was "essentially using physical means to avoid custody" by pulling away and by crouching, Caterinicchio said.
On Saturday, Foster first shot the Taser's twin prongs at Rodeman, though only one made contact and no charge was sent. He then used the drive stun method to administer a shock.
Oak Creek's policy further specifies that "the Taser may be utilized under repeated session to gain compliance or maintain control of a suspect if a cover officer is not immediately available to take the suspect into custody."
Rodeman, 54, was booked into Routt County Jail on suspicion of misdemeanor charges of eluding police, obstructing a police officer, resisting arrest, driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence per se, as well as a traffic infraction of failure to signal. Rodeman's blood alcohol after her arrest was 0.102, higher than the 0.08 legal threshold for DUI.
Shoshanna Montoya, 28, also was arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault and obstructing a police officer. Tashera Montoya was cited for obstructing a police officer and possession of drug paraphernalia.
No complaints about the incident have been received by the town or the police department, Caterinicchio said Tuesday. Rodeman and the Montoyas have enlisted the services of Steamboat Springs attorney Kris Hammond.
As the District Attorney's Office has not filed charges against any of the women, it is unclear at this point how they will proceed, Hammond said.
"This case is just going to be a three-ring circus," Hammond said.
Taser usage uncommon
Although Tasers have been carried by law enforcement officers in Routt County for several years, their usage is not common. Rodeman's arrest was the first deployment of a Taser by Oak Creek police since the department was reformed in September 2007. Foster is certified as an instructor on the device by manufacturer Taser International.
A Taser is standard carry for Sheriff's Office deputies, said Sheriff Gary Wall, though no one has had to use one since he took office in January 2007. Former Sheriff John Warner dismissed a deputy for improperly using a Taser on a handcuffed suspect who was already in a patrol vehicle, Wall said.