Taser Explains Death of Man Zapped After Claiming to Be a Lion and Biting Cops at Denver Zoo

A man in Colorado died earlier this year after police zapped him with a Taser after he claimed to be a lion, tackled a guard at the Denver Zoo, and then bit a police officer.

If you ask Scottsdale-based Taser, or the Denver coroner, though, the July 18 zapping wasn't completely to blame for the death of 29-year-old Alonzo Ashley.

According to Taser, a "coroner ruled that Ashley died of cardiorespiratory arrest, possibly brought on by heat, dehydration and the exertion of the struggle, and noted he had been previously treated for high blood pressure."

The company goes further to say "Ashley's agitation, combativeness, and unexpected strength was consistent with excited delirium."

The Denver coroner has ruled the death a homicide, although no "anatomical cause" of Ashley's death could be determined. 

Even though the case was ruled a homicide, no charges have yet been filed against the officers who deployed the Taser into Ashley, and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, Taser says, doesn't plan on filing charges in the future (just because the case was ruled a homicide doesn't necessarily mean a crime was committed -- it simply means Ashley died as the result of another person's actions).

"From a criminal law assessment of the facts of this case, the involved citizens and law enforcement officers were justified in using the degree of force used," Morrissey says in a decision statement released today.

When asked if the company defends the use of a Taser in this particular incident, Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle tells New Times "I'm not a use of force expert and our company doesn't pass judgments on police actions that we were not present at nor have any of the police report details. We do know that TASER ECDs have proven to be the least injurious tool for stopping individuals compared to other pain compliance techniques."

The two officers may not be charged with any crimes, but the Denver Police Department is conducting an internal affairs investigation into whether they followed official procedures.

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James King
Contact: James King