Eye injuries from electrical weapon probes: Incidents, prevalence, and legal implications

Mark W Kroll, Mollie B Ritter, Eric A Kennedy, Nora K Silverman, Roman Shinder, Michael A Brave, Howard E Williams
Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine 2018, 55: 52-57

PURPOSE: While generally reducing morbidity and mortality, electrical weapons have risks associated with their usage, including burn injuries and trauma associated with uncontrolled fall impacts. However, the prevalence of significant eye injury has not been investigated.

METHODS: We searched for incidents of penetrating eye injury from TASER® conducted electrical weapon (CEW) probes via open source media, litigation filings, and a survey of CEW law-enforcement master instructors.

RESULTS: We report 20 previously-unpublished cases of penetrating eye injury from electrical weapon probes in law-enforcement field uses. Together with the 8 previously published cases, there are a total of 28 cases out of 3.44 million field uses, giving a demonstrated CEW field-use risk of penetrating eye injury of approximately 1:123 000. Confidence limits [85 000, 178 000] by Wilson score interval. There have been 18 cases of total unilateral blindness or enucleation. We also present legal decisions on this topic.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of electrical weapons presents a rare but real risk of total or partial unilateral blindness from electrical weapon probes. Catastrophic eye injuries appear to be the dominant non-fatal complication of electronic control.

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