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Weare officer accused of excessive force says he feared for his life

Monitor staff
Last modified: 2/20/2016 12:46:15 AM
The Weare police officer accused of abusing a burglary suspect with his Taser testified Friday that he deployed the weapon only because he feared for his life.

“I don’t know if he’s got a gun under there, I don’t know if he’s got a knife,” said the officer, Ken Cox, referring to what he described as the man’s tucked position. “And, to add insult to injury, I don’t know if he’s got a partner.”

Cox, who is at the center of a federal lawsuit over the 2012 encounter, told jurors Friday that he used the Taser twice on the suspect, Shane St. Onge, before his partner, Kim McSweeney, arrived and was able to place St. Onge in handcuffs. Cox then tested the weapon for a charge, per protocol, and holstered it, he said.

The account, offered on the third day of trial, is in stark contrast to St. Onge’s original allegations, in which he has claimed Cox deployed the Taser about four times, even though he followed orders and dropped to the ground after the first shock.

St. Onge, who was later convicted of burglary, has said he stood with his hands up, as ordered, and that Cox deployed the Taser anyway. Cox continued to use it several times, St. Onge alleges, berating him throughout with phrases like, “Do you like that?” and, “Does that feel good?”

Cox was never confronted Friday about those specific claims. Instead, St. Onge’s attorney, Tony Soltani, underscored inconsistencies in later reports on the encounter, including one drafted by the police department’s prosecutor that said Cox and McSweeney entered the building together. They now say that Cox entered the building alone while McSweeney stood guard out front.

Cox responded Friday that he never fully reviewed that report, though he did fix a copy error on it a few days after the incident, at the prosecutor’s request. He also acknowledged writing in a separate document that St. Onge had been “in possession” of a crow bar, though he was not in fact holding it at the time. Soltani suggested that he used the term to help justify the use of the Taser. Cox said it’s used broadly in law enforcement, and is only meant to designate ownership of an item, not physical contact.

The trial is scheduled to continue next week.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)


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