ELON, NC – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) today announced the successful resolution of a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of John W. Paylor, a resident of Elon and a 55-year-old grandfather who was shot twice with a Taser by Elon police officers on June 18, 2006. The officers had surrounded the home of Mr. Paylor in order to serve him with a misdemeanor arrest warrant for using profanity on a public highway and for reckless driving. A videotape of the incident shows that Mr. Paylor was unarmed, in his underwear, and presented no threat to the officers. Nevertheless, an Elon police officer shot Mr. Paylor with a Taser, causing him to fall from his porch. Then, while Mr. Paylor was lying on the ground, unable to move from the shock of being tased and from the fall down his steps, the officer tased him a second time. Mr. Paylor has sustained permanent physical scarring from the incident. The ACLU-NCLF filed a lawsuit against the Elon Police Department and the individual Elon police officers involved on behalf of Mr. Paylor for excessive use of force in March 2009.
A settlement agreement was finalized and executed earlier this week, and cooperating attorneys for the ACLU-NCLF have filed papers in court ending the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Elon Police Department will implement measures designed to prevent excessive and unnecessary use of Tasers in the future. In particular, Elon police officers will undergo improved annual training on a new Taser policy and on Elon’s more general use-of-force policy. Elon’s new Taser policy must be consistent with policies in place in other North Carolina localities that include protections the ACLU believes are important to safeguard against excessive use of Tasers. For example, these policies prevent the use of Tasers against individuals, such as Mr. Paylor, who are not actively resisting officers. These policies also prohibit the use of Tasers against individuals, such as Mr. Paylor, who could potentially receive a secondary injury resulting from falling off an elevated location, and they also limit the number of times an individual can be tased. Other settlement terms include the following: (1) the officer who tased Mr. Paylor will undergo additional use-of-force and Taser training at the North Carolina Justice Academy; and (2) the Elon Police Chief will instruct all officers that anyone with a personal interest relating to the subject of a misdemeanor warrant shall refrain from serving such warrant in person, unless safety or exigent circumstances require that person to be present. Additionally, the Elon Police Department made a $50,000 settlement payment to Mr. Paylor for his physical, emotional and constitutional injuries.
“I am happy with this outcome,” said John Paylor. “What these officers did to me was wrong, and my hope is that this settlement will prevent others from having to suffer what I suffered at the hands of Elon police.”