London, United Kingdom – A UK policeman who tasered a father in front of his young child is facing accusations of using excessive force unnecessarily after the moment was caught on video and shared widely on social media.
In the video, two policemen can be seen at a petrol station in Manchester, northern England, arguing with the driver, 34-year-old Desmond Ziggy Mombeyarara, outside a police car as his son stands by his legs, distressed and shouting “Daddy!”.
One of the officers releases the taser on Mombeyarara, who is Black.
The taser makes a bang and Mombeyarara falls to the ground.
His son shouts “daddy!” again, cries and stamps his feet in a traumatised manner.
The officer who fired the taser orders Mombeyarara to “put your hands behind your back, now!”, but he appears unable to do so.
The other officer then picks the crying child up and takes him away.
Tasers disable people by firing an electric charge into their bodies through needle-tipped darts.
According to the College of Policing, a professional body for policing in the UK, the usual reaction of someone who has been tasered “is loss of some voluntary muscle control accompanied by involuntary muscle contractions”.
During the discharge, the subject may “not be able to respond to verbal commands during the discharge” or could “freeze on the spot”.
In a statement on Friday, Greater Manchester Police said the incident took place on Wednesday before 11pm, local time.
“Police officers observed a vehicle being driven unsafely at high speed on Chester Road, in Stretford,” said the statement, adding they stopped Mombeyarara and arrested him.
Mombeyarara was charged with resisting arrest, speeding, not having car insurance, failing to stop when required, refusing a test and being unfit to drive through drink.
He was also charged with “one count of unnecessary travel”, which refers to violating current coronavirus lockdown measures in the UK, under which only essential travel is allowed.
He was remanded in custody and appeared before Manchester Magistrates’ Court on Friday.
According to Manchester Evening News, Mombeyarara pleaded guilty to several charges, but denied guilt in obstructing or resisting a constable in the execution of duty.
A hearing was adjourned until July 31, Mombeyarara was granted unconditional bail and an interim driving disqualification was imposed.
“We have voluntarily referred this matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), to ensure transparency and independence in terms of reviewing the circumstances of the arrest,” said Greater Manchester Police.
Superintendent Mark Kenny said: “We are aware of public concern regarding this arrest and I want to reassure the public that this matter is being reviewed and treated seriously. In addition, we have voluntarily referred this matter to the IOPC.”
The IOPC is a police watchdog, sponsored by the UK Home Office.
Andy Burnham, Manchester mayor and a politician with the opposition Labour Party, said: “I was concerned about what I saw … It is not at all clear that the level of force used in this instance, particularly in front of a child, was proportionate or justified and that is why I have asked for an urgent and independent review to be carried out.”
He added, however: “From what I have been told, it would appear that the officers were right to apprehend the individual who was putting his child and others at risk by his actions.”
‘Tasers should be last, not first resort’
Deborah Coles, head of Inquest, a UK charity providing expertise on state-related deaths, wrote on Twitter that she had “serious questions”.
Greater Manchester Police “must answer as to why a taser was discharged in a petrol station and with a young child present. Tasers should be a last not first resort. Reinforces concerns about disproportionate use of force against black people”.
Aamer Anwar, a Scottish-based lawyer, tweeted: “Force used must be reasonable, legitimate & proportionate – using a taser at a petrol pump, do they not realise the deadly danger of using it near flammable material? Doing it right in front of the man’s toddler? A lot of questions.”
Twitter user Michael Morgan said: “This taser incident is yet another example of institutionally racist policing and disproportionate use of force.”
Example, a British musician, said: “This is disgraceful. There’ll be so many people saying ‘why didn’t he cooperate?’ But how can two male police officers not deal with this WITHOUT a taser !!?? And the poor kid. Scarred for life. The cycle continues.”