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The Jackson Sun (Tennessee)

Family Calls For End of Tasering

Stanley Dunlap

MILAN - The family of Jermaine Ward asked for justice Friday and for answers as to who was responsible for his April death while in the custody of Milan police.0614 03 1

The family and other concerned citizens, numbering about 20, held a rally outside Milan City Hall as part of a two-day "Stop The Tasering" demostration of support for Ward's family. Ward died April 27 after being arrested on drug possession charges. The incident started out as a traffic stop.

A march is planned for 9 a.m. today starting at Kefauver Drive and ending at the Milan Police Department on Telecom Drive.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating the death of Ward, whom police stunned with a Taser during a traffic stop.

Milan police have said Ward, 28, was resisting arrest and not complying with orders when they used the device to help subdue him. Authorities said Friday they are still awaiting autopsy results on Ward.

Ward's grandmother, Mildred Osborne, said the family is still in pain over the death and is searching for answers.

"I just want closure, peace and justice," she said. "Whoever is responsible - I want justice."

His mother, Carolyn Nesbitt, said she would like the state to step in and examine the use of Tasers by police departments.

"I'm asking the governor of the state of Tennessee to take the lead and do a moratorium (on Taser use) in the state until more research is done and officers are better trained," she said.

Family attorney Stephen Leffler of Memphis said the family is waiting for the autopsy results before deciding how to proceed.

He said the family could pursue lawsuits against any parties they feel are responsible for the death, including the police department, the city or Tasers International, which made the device used on Ward.

"It may be (the Taser is) a reasonably dangerous product, and if it is we will pursue them as well," Leffler said. "Basically, right now we're just turning over a lot of rocks."

Milan Mayor Chris Crider addressed the family at the rally and said he understood their grief.

"I'm glad you're exercising your rights to speak, and I wish more people would do the same," Crider said. "I'm very sorry for what happened."

Crider said he has begun making changes within the police department and that he wants the doors of City Hall to always be open to citizens with concerns.

On Thursday the city's Board of Aldermen voted to name former Assistant Chief Tim Wright as head of the Milan Police Department. Crider fired former chief Ken Nolan on Tuesday.

Nolan's firing wasn't related to Ward's death, Crider said, but was a part of the new direction he wanted to head in.

"If it comes out that we did something wrong, then I've got to make sure we take care of it," Crider said after the rally.

Renard Ward, 25, who is a brother of Jermaine Ward, said he wanted anyone who felt they had been treated unjustly by any police department to come forward.

He said he believed more people besides his brother have been impacted by police abuse and that the communities around West Tennessee should show their support.

"We need everybody to come and speak out and let their voices be heard," he said.

© 2008 The Jackson Sun

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