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Police, stun gun company sued over man's death

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SALT LAKE CITY — Tyson Powers calls authorities every day for the police report and autopsy on his late father, Allen Nelson.

"Every day I call the coroner's office trying to get the autopsy to find out how my father passed," Powers said at a press conference Thursday. "It's the same answer ever day, ‘It's still pending, still pending.'"

The autopsy and police report have not yet been released, but in a lawsuit filed by Powers based on eye witness accounts, attorneys claim Nelson died due to use of excessive force after being stunned for "minor reasons" on June 9. The lawsuit states "the deliberate, knowing, and reckless indifference of Salt Lake City and its agents allowed Mr. Nelson to die while being detained and/or arrested."

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Nelson was heading with his bicycle along the road on Laconia Court when some unnamed officers detained him and placed him in handcuffs.

The lawsuit cites an eyewitness, who said Nelson then yelled at officers, "Please don't hit me again! I didn't do it!"

Nelson was then stunned "one or multiple times" … "probably in the chest area, thereby subjecting him to an unreasonably dangerous electrical current and the significant circulatory and respiratory health problems associated therewith."

I wake up every morning with emptiness in my heart and my stomach, not knowing what happened. I'm not here to bad-mouth people; I just want justice served, and it will come to light.

–- Tyson Powers, son

It also claims that after they stopped stunning him, they did not perform CPR on Nelson, who they claim had been sent into cardiac arrest.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank rejects the allegations presented in the lawsuit, and says Nelson may have been connected to a string of burglaries around 260 East and 800 South.

"A single officer placed him in handcuffs, had a conversation and obtained some preliminary information," Burbank said. "A second officer arrived at the scene and, at the point of walking (Nelson) to the car, (Nelson) became agitated."

He added that although it is unfortunate Nelson died in custody, no stun gun was used.

"Every time that trigger is pulled, it downloads to the computer as to whether or not it was, the extent and length of time it was used," Burbank said. "We downloaded that information. The taser was not used."

The neighbor who claims Nelson was stunned, Darlene Bessonette, said that when she was interviewed as part of the investigation officers attempted to harass and intimidate her into changing her story about whether a stun gun was used.

"I'm very confident in the professionalism of my police department, and complaints of that nature, I've never heard," Burbank said.

Burbank said Nelson's backpack was found in a home that was broken into, and the officer stopped him on suspicion of that break-in. Nelson had just finished a jail sentence.

The family, who is seeking a jury trial and damages, questions why the police report hasn't been released and why a full autopsy has not been completed, months later.

"I wake up every morning with emptiness in my heart and my stomach, not knowing what happened," Power said. "I'm not here to bad-mouth people; I just want justice served, and it will come to light."

Contributing: Andrew Adams


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