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Appeals Court To Review Durham Police Taser Case

Durham Police Department badge.
City of Durham

The state Court of Appeals will reexamine a lawsuit filed by a man who was severely injured after a Taser was used on him by a Durham Police Officer.

Bryan DeBaun suffered facial injuries and broken bones from the 2009 incident, claiming that officer Daniel J. Kuszaj's "use of excessive force" and "malicious prosecution" violated his rights under the North Carolina constitution. He is suing both the police officer and city of Durham.

According to court documents, Bryan DeBaun was walking by a road early one morning with a beer case in hand when Kuszaj approached him. Because DeBaun appeared intoxicated, Kuszaj tried to take him into custody. He assured DeBaun he was not under arrest.

When DeBaun began to try to run away, Kuszaj directed a Taser on his back, causing him to fall on the concrete and break his nose and jaw. Debaun said his medical bills for surgery exceeded $30,000.

The State Court of Appeals ruled that the officer was correctly following the department's use of force policy. With the State Supreme Court's recent order to the Court of Appeals to review the case, plaintiff's attorney Alex Charns says he's hopeful that the court will rule the police department's policy on Tasers unconstitutional.

"The Durham Police Department's excessive force policy allows officers to seriously injure or even kill unarmed people, and these people are folks that have committed at most minor offenses."

The Durham city attorney and Durham Police Department declined to comment on the case while it's still in litigation.

The case is making its way through the courts at a time when the Durham Police Department is also getting attention for the handling of Jesus Huerta, a 17-year-old who died under police custody more than a month ago.

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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