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Woman says she didn't deserve Taser treatment

  • Story Highlights
  • Ohio woman says she feared police officer: "I was terrified of this man"
  • Authorities say stun gun will be examined to see how many times it was used
  • Police officer has been placed on paid leave pending probe
  • City law director: "We're going to try to get to the bottom of the whole thing"
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From Wayne Drash
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(CNN) -- Heidi Gill admits she had been drinking at a bar in Warren, Ohio, and gotten into a "disagreement" with a bartender earlier this month. But she said she didn't deserve to have a police officer use a Taser gun on her multiple times.


Warren, Ohio, officer Rich Kovach is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

Video footage from the police cruiser shows Gill, 38, crawling on the ground while the officer stands over her with the stun gun. She's screaming wildly. At one point, officer Rich Kovach shoves her with his foot as she struggles.

"I've never been electrocuted," she told CNN's "American Morning" on Wednesday. "I didn't know what this was. And I really didn't think this pain was ever going to stop. It was nonstop."

She said she was trying anything to get away "so I could live." Video Watch Gill describe the Taser treatment »

In the video, Gill, once inside the police car, kicks the back-seat window and continues to scream. "At this point, I had been Tased for so long and just drug around by my handcuffs. I was terrified of this man. He was no longer a police officer to me."

Authorities have launched a formal investigation into the September 2 incident. Kovach has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Police referred all questions to the city of Warren's legal department.

Greg Hicks, law director for Warren, said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation will analyze the Taser gun to determine how many times it was used. Kovach said he used the device on Gill at least seven times, including twice while she was handcuffed, according to the police report. See how a Taser gun works »

Taser effects

• An average Taser device can emit a 50,000-volt electric shock. In comparison, a device in emergency rooms to shock hearts back to life starts at around 300 volts.

• A shock of half a second duration will cause intense pain and muscle contractions, startling most people, according to sources familiar with Taser devices.

• Two to three seconds of the shock will often cause the subject to become dazed and drop to the ground. More than three seconds of exposure usually disorient a person and cause him or her to drop to the ground for at least several seconds.

• Taser International Inc., the company that makes the device, warns law enforcement agencies that "prolonged or continuous exposure" to the shock may lead to medical risks such as cumulative exhaustion and breathing impairment and even heart damage.

From CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta

"What kind of threat did she pose to the officer and the public? She had no weapon," said her attorney, Mark Hanni.

Hicks said Gill was extremely intoxicated and that she was not obeying the officer's commands when the Taser gun was used. He said police have the right to deploy the force that's necessary when confronted with such situations. When a Taser gun is used and it doesn't temporarily incapacitate the suspect, he said, police can use it again.

"It's a good, nonlethal weapon for somebody who is out of control," he said.

In the police report, Kovach describes responding to a "fight/disturbance" at the Up A Creek tavern and finding a belligerent Gill, who began cursing, refused to give her real name, then ran to the back of the property and got into a sport utility vehicle that wasn't hers.

She was hunched in the driver's seat hiding from Kovach, according to the report. "She was drunk behind the wheel of a car," Hicks said.

The officer asked her to get out and she refused, trying to "climb over to the passenger seat to jump out the passenger side of the car. I then Tasered her from my position," the report said.

Kovach acknowledges using the stun gun several more times to try to get her under control. He said once he got her into his cruiser, she kicked out the back window, tried to climb in the front of his car and would not listen to him, the report said.

He used the Taser device again and requested a car with a cage to transport Gill. As he was moving her to the other vehicle, the officer said she tried to run away again, so he used the stun gun one more time. "She fell to the ground," according to the report. "I did see her body hit the pavement and then her head."

Gill said she was in pain throughout the ordeal. "At one point, you can see me crawling on the ground. I was just grasping for grass, rocks, anything that I could just crawl away from him."

Gill was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, vehicle trespass for getting into a car that wasn't hers and assault on a police officer. Hicks said those charges are under review and could be lessened.

Authorities also are examining the officer's behavior. "We're going to try to get to the bottom of the whole thing," Hicks said.

Gill said she has had vision and other medical problems as a result of the officer's actions. She said she has nearly three dozen burn marks on her pants as a result of the officer using the Taser gun so many times.

Gill has not filed a formal complaint with the police, according to Hicks.

Dan Letson, an attorney for the Up A Creek tavern, said a list of employees who witnessed what happened in the bar, leading to Gill being escorted out, has been turned over to investigators. He said the tavern is a respectable establishment and "they can't have people in there making a ruckus."


Gill said she had been having drinks at the bar following a friend's wedding and that she had a verbal disagreement with the bartender.

Warren, a town of about 50,000 people, is about 50 miles southeast of Cleveland. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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