NORTH CHARLESTON - A judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit against North Charleston police stemming from the 2006 death of a man who was repeatedly jolted with a Taser gun while high on cocaine.
U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck granted a defense motion Friday to toss out the suit after finding the mother of the dead man and her attorney had failed to press their case. The judge dismissed the suit without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled at a later date.
The lawsuit stemmed from an October 2006 incident in which Kip Darrell Black, a mentally impaired man, died after police used up to 10 jolts from their Taser stun guns to subdue him.
His mother, Janie Black, filed a wrongful death suit in October 2008 against the city of North Charleston, its police department and four officers involved in the incident, alleging recklessness and excessive force. Black's wife, Rhonda Wilson, also sued police but later withdrew her action, citing a desire to work with Janie Black on her lawsuit.
Sandra Senn, an attorney for the city, moved to dismiss Janie Black's lawsuit in April, arguing that Black failed to respond to discovery requests, ignored the court's requests to do so and had otherwise neglected to take action to move the case forward.
Houck granted Senn's motion but questioned whether Black's attorney, John Michael Bosnak, bore some culpability for the case's tardy progress. He stated in a court order that Bosnak "repeatedly failed to take responsibility for this litigation."
Bosnak did not respond to a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment Tuesday. Janie Black could not be reached for comment.
On the day he died, Kip Black, 38, was stripping off his clothes and acting erratically when police came upon him near Rivers and Reynolds avenues. Three officers approached and said they wanted to take him to a hospital. Black began chewing on his driver's license and running into traffic.
North Charleston police officers reported using Tasers and chemical spray to little or no effect. Four officers took the 240-pound man to the ground. He died at a local hospital.
The Charleston County Coroner's Office ruled that cocaine use had caused Black to die from "excited delirium syndrome."
Senn said police use of a Taser on Black was "totally appropriate" under the circumstances. "Oddly enough, this wasn't his first time behaving in a similar fashion or his first time being Tased," she said.
A month earlier, Black had a similar run-in with sheriff's deputies in the parking lot of a Colleton County supermarket. Shirtless, shoeless and "talking out of his head," Black jogged into traffic and ignored orders to stop until deputies jolted him three times with Tasers, according to an incident report. Black later told a doctor he had smoked four rocks of crack cocaine and had consumed two beers before the encounter, deputies said.
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