Report: Expert says officer improperly deployed Taser on Maquoketa man

The family of Drew Edwards, 22, of Maquoketa, say officers with the Maquoketa Police Department...
The family of Drew Edwards, 22, of Maquoketa, say officers with the Maquoketa Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff's Office used excessive force when a Taser was used on him and that it contributed to his death. (KWQC/Contributed)(KWQC)
Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 4:12 PM CDT
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An expert tapped by the family of Drew Edwards in a

has opined that a Maquoketa police officer’s use of a Taser was “inappropriate.”

Further, officers who encountered the 22-year-old Maquoketa man on June 15 did not have sufficient probable cause to even arrest him, according to a report from William Harmening, who has been in law enforcement for about 36 years.

The attorney for Edwards’ family released the report to TV6 late Tuesday afternoon.

The family filed the lawsuit in October in U.S. District Court, Dubuque, against the city of Maquoketa, Jackson County, Maquoketa officer Brendan Zeimet, and Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Schroeder.

Maquoketa police officer Mike Owen was later added to the suit following the release of his body camera footage captured during the incident.

On June 15, Owen and Schroeder responded to an altercation involving Edwards and a relative at a home on West Apple Street.

The officers repeatedly tell Edwards he is under arrest. At one point, Owen took out his Taser and ordered Edwards multiple times to get on the ground, which he did not do. Owen then deployed the Taser.

Edwards then went to the ground, got back up, and took off running with the two officers following him, the video shows.

Owen deployed the Taser again and eventually, the officers attempted to handcuff him while he was on the ground.

The officers were only able to secure one of his wrists, and Edwards continued to resist and refused to give them his second arm.

According to the lawsuit, he was shocked by the Taser several times during the incident.

Eventually, the officers handcuffed him and discovered he was unresponsive when they rolled him over, the video shows.

He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

In the report provided to TV6, Harmening opined:

• Owen and Schroeder arrested Edwards without first conducting a proper investigation to determine if probable cause existed for the arrest. At the time of the arrest, they had not yet inspected the apartment the assault happened in, had not yet obtained a written statement, had not yet obtained a coherent description of what happened, and had not yet determined with any certainty who was the victim and who was the aggressor.

• Owen and Schroeder decided to arrest Edwards for a minor offense when their training, experience, and department policy demanded that they either issue a non-custodial citation and remove Edwards from the premises or remove Edwards from the premises and later seek a misdemeanor arrest warrant once a proper investigation was completed.

• Owen improperly deployed his Taser at a time when Edwards was calm, only passively resisting, and threatening no one.

• Owen’s nearly continuous use of the Taser for 55 seconds (eight trigger pulls) violated every set of standards guiding the law enforcement community’s use of CEWs (conducted electrical weapons) and was thus reckless and excessive under the circumstances.

• Owen improperly applied his weight to Edwards’ head and neck to restrain him and then maintained that pressure for over 12 minutes, letting up only after Edwards had become unresponsive and was noticeably aspirating.

• Owen, Schroeder, and Zeimet all played a role in the restraint of Edwards, and all failed to follow their training and correct procedure by providing first aid as soon as possible once it became obvious that Edwards was in distress, Harmening wrote in his report.

An autopsy determined Edwards died of cardiac arrest and had methamphetamine, ecstasy, and marijuana in his system, investigators have said.

The officers were later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

The lawsuit claims Edwards had a heart condition and that the officers knew he had been hospitalized twice before when a Taser was used on him in 2016 and 2018.

The suit also claims that the officers used excessive force when the Taser was deployed and that it contributed to his death.

In a response filed in federal court, attorneys for the city, and officers said the actions taken that day were discretionary and done in good faith and that they are entitled to immunity.

They also said the officers “exercised with all due care to conform to the requirements of the law in connection with any and all interactions with Drew Edwards.”

The county and Schroeder filed a similar response.

The case is slated to go to trial in April 2021, court records show.