Death by Electrocutioner

In a worst-case scenario for stun guns, a Phoenix cop kills a suspect with an 84-second tasing

Somehow, all three — the two cops and Graff — fell to the patio floor. Williams was bleeding from her lip, as Graff flailed and tried to get away from them.

Anderson said he "stepped away from the fight" and fired his Taser at Graff from very close range. Both fish-hook-like probes from the stun gun hit Graff in his bare chest and stuck.

Anderson said he called for backup on his portable radio as he continued to zap the suspect.

According to Caruso's police report, Anderson told him "the Taser did not have an immediate effect, but after five to 10 seconds, the suspect stopped resisting."

That statement was critical. If "the suspect stopped resisting" after that short a stretch, then one of the officers should have put handcuffs on Graff and ended things.

But the 26-year-old Anderson said he held down the trigger on the Taser for what he first estimated was 30 seconds because he was spent after the short tussle. He said he stopped only after he saw Officers Mankinster and Lambert rushing up the steps as backup.

Someone handcuffed the suspect, but Anderson noticed that Graff "did not appear to be breathing." He and Williams then performed CPR on Graff until fire paramedics arrived a few minutes later.

Anderson's interview with an internal affairs investigator a few hours after his interview with Detective Caruso added more details. He repeated that the fight started after he tossed Graff's knife aside inside the apartment and tried to grab him.

"Was he actively trying to throw blows, or was he trying to pull away from you?" the sergeant asked.

"He was looking like he was trying to get out of there," Anderson replied.

Anderson said he and Williams brawled with Graff on the concrete landing.

"And I was telling him, 'Stop fighting, stop fighting, stop fighting.' And he wasn't listening."

Anderson said he rose during the melee and fired his Taser into Graff's chest from two to three feet away. In this account, Anderson described Graff as having his fists clenched and fighting for "between 30 and 40 seconds," despite being Tased.

That was a huge difference from what Anderson said in his first interview, when he'd told the detective that Graff stopped resisting after "five or 10 seconds."

Anderson's third and final interview provided new information, though it also would prove to be a frustrating exercise.

The officer told Sergeant Clint Zeiner that Graff's arms "were just kind of in a ready fighting position" as he was being Tased.

Zeiner, the lead investigator on the internal affairs probe of the case, asked Anderson if Keith Graff was "actively fighting" him during the clash.

"He wasn't with his arms fighting me," Anderson replied. "What he was doing with Carla, I don't know."

Anderson said he couldn't recall standing up and taking his Taser out, though he did remember firing it.

"You got an 84-second deployment here, so what happens in that time?" Zeiner asked.

Anderson never answered, and the internal affairs investigator didn't press him. Instead, Zeiner seemed eager to help out the young officer.

"Was it your belief," the sergeant asked, "that if you turned off your Taser at any time during those 84 seconds, the fight was gonna be back on? Or did you look at him after a while and say, 'Okay. This guy's spent, but I'm gonna keep [the Taser] on until the cavalry gets here?"

Anderson replied that "it was more toward [the latter]. You know, I heard the Taser thing was on for 84 seconds. To me, it felt like 30. I didn't think it was that long."

Then, the officer said Graff kept resisted for "half to two-thirds of the way [through the Tasing].

"He looked like he was spent," Anderson offered, "but I still was, too."

Anderson said he decided to keep shocking Graff until the other two officers arrived. Under that theory, Graff was continuing to resist as he was getting shocked for between 42 and 56 seconds, a highly unlikely possibility, according to literature about stun guns.

Sergeant Zeiner continued to lob softballs.

"Could it be characterized as more of a struggle between the two of you than a fight?" he asked Anderson. "When you say fight, I'm looking for an act of aggression."

"It wasn't a fistfight," the officer replied, not going where the interrogator seemed to be trying to lead him. "He was actively trying to get away."

"But he wasn't actively trying to assault you guys to get away? He was just doing whatever he could to get away?"

"Right."


Officer Carla Williams also spoke with investigators three times after Keith Graff's death.

In her first interview, also with homicide detective Caruso a few hours after the incident, she described how Chuck Anderson had taken Graff to the ground just outside the apartment. She said she became entangled in and shocked by the wires that shot out of her Taser when she fired it at Graff but missed.

Williams said she and Graff tumbled to the ground and that she tried to corral the suspect by using her Taser as a kind of cattle prod. Called the "drive stun" technique or a "touch Tase," officers can use the Taser to shock subjects by sticking it against their bodies and pulling the trigger.

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