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Taser death 'abuse of police powers' - coroner

Wednesday 14 Nov 2012 4:31 p.m.

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By Rachel Morton

A coroner in New South Wales has labelled five police officers reckless and dangerous for Tasering a man nine times.

The man later died, and now the officers face disciplinary action.

Brazilian student Roberto Curti was high on LSD when police chased him through central Sydney. When they caught him they Tasered him nine times, and sprayed him with three cans of pepper spray.

"What eventuated was a frenzy of officers, most of them very junior and inexperienced, half of whom did not even know what Roberto was suspected of having done as they joined in the chase and behaving out of control," says NSW coroner Mary Jerram.

Curti had stolen two packets of biscuits. The coroner found although on drugs he wasn't dangerous, rather paranoid – still 11 police officers were involved in arresting him.

He died during the arrest. No definite cause of death was found, although he may have choked while being restrained face-down on the footpath.

The coroner says five officers should face disciplinary action, but for Curti's family that isn't enough.

"The family and our lawyers also believe that charges for certain criminal offences should be laid," says Curti's brother-in-law Mike Reynolds.

"We've made a formal request to pursue charges against the relevant officers."

The corner said some of the officers behaved with a pack mentality, were reckless, careless, dangerous and excessively forceful.

"Some of them did demonstrate an abuse of police powers, [and] in some instances even thuggish."

The police say they accept the findings, although they won't consider stopping the use of Tasers.

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